Sept. 16, 2006
By Jeff Honza
BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-Nick Hill threw for four touchdowns and the defense made a big statement, as No. 16 Southern Illinois University (2-0) became the first Gateway Conference school to take down a Big Ten opponent when it came from behind to stun Indiana (2-1), 35-28, earlier today.
With the win, SIU snapped a 20-game road losing streak against Division I-A foes and toppled its first I-A opponent since beating New Mexico State (41-3) on Oct. 29, 1983. Gateway schools were also 0-18 all-time against Big Ten Conference teams until SIU ended that today.
The Salukis entered the game fresh off a two-week break and hooked up with the Hoosiers in front of crowd of 31,156 as part of IU's Parents Weekend festivities.
SIU trailed, 14-0, in the first quarter, but rallied behind a stifling defense and a rookie quarterback, who never lost his poise.
"This was a huge win for our program," said Saluki head coach Jerry Kill. "They had the momentum early, but our kids didn't let things get out of hand. Our coaches did an outstanding job of keeping this young team's composure."
Shortly after IU recovered a Hill fumble, the Hoosiers were looking to add to their lead when they took over on downs at the Saluki 41-yard line.
However, on the ensuing play, Craig Turner wiped out what could have been a big play for the Hoosiers when he went airborne to intercept a Kellen Lewis pass at the Dawgs' 2-yard line. The pick marked the first of Turner's career.
The Saluki defense, which gave up 48 yards on the ground and 43 in the air during the game's first 15 minutes, carried the momentum from Turner's interception into the second quarter, where it limited IU to only 17 yards of total offense.
After coming up empty on six-straight possessions, SIU started its comeback just before halftime when Braden Jones hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass from Hill. The TD capped a seven-play, 33-yard drive with 27 seconds left in the half.
SIU later countered by marching 78 yards on 10 plays to narrow the gap to 21-14.
Hill's 11-yard run and 27-yard completion to walk-on Ryan Beeler, along with Arkee Whitlock's 11-yard scamper and a IU personal foul, helped get the Salukis to the Hoosier 8-yard line before Hill completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to true freshman tight end Ryan Kernes.
Four plays later, Alan Turner caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Hill to tie the game at 21-21 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.
After SIU stuffed the Hoosiers on fourth down nearly five minutes into the fourth quarter, the Salukis took over on downs in excellent field position at the IU 48.
Following three-straight carries consisting of three, five and 11 yards, respectively, Phil Goforth caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Hill to give SIU its first lead (28-21) at the10:17 mark.
The see-saw battle continued when Demetrius McCray polished off IU's next drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to bring the game to a 28-28 deadlock.
But, the biggest catch of quarterback/wide receiver Justin Allen's young Saluki career would set up the game's decisive score.
SIU faced a 3rd-and-11 at its own 34 during its final drive of the game when Allen made a spectacular, over-the-shoulder, 33-yard grab to give the Dawgs a first down at the IU 33.
"Justin got jammed at the line and I knew I had to hold on the ball a little bit longer," described Hill. "I knew they were going to blitz, so I just took a hit and put the ball up in the air. It was all Justin after that."
Two plays later, Whitlock sliced his way into the end zone from nine yards out to give SIU a 35-28 lead with 5:50 left.
With the ball on its 29-yard line, IU attempted to pass on each of its final 11 plays down the stretch.
After completing five-of-seven passes to start their final drive, IU was at SIU's 32-yard line before Wims had two monsterous sacks to end all hopes for the Hoosiers.
Moments after Ray Fisher's nine-yard reception gave the Hoosiers a first down, Wims dropped Lewis for a loss of seven yards. Two plays later, Wims sacked Lewis again, this time for a big loss of 13 yards on the last play of the game.
"I am known for getting sacks and I didn't have any until that point in the game," said Wims, who hails from Ft. Wayne, Ind. "I just kept thinking that big players make big plays in big games, and knew that's what I had to do."
Hill completed 10-of-18 passes for 168 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first Saluki quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a game since Joel Sambursky accomplished the feat against Indiana State in 2004.
"Nick did a great job of throwing the ball towards the end and let's give the offensive line credit. He had a lot of time to throw that football," said Kill.
Whitlock rushed for 103 yards and one TD, and as a result, became the first SIU running back to rush for over 100 yards against a Big Ten opponent since Byron Mitchell carried the ball for 129 yards at Illinois on Sept. 18, 1985.
Wims finished with five solo tackles, a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery to help pave the way for the Saluki defense. Wims' five takedowns followed close behind Turner and Brandin Jordan, who each had six tackles.
"We came up with some big plays on defense, and again, it was a great team effort," said Kill.
Team wise, the Dawgs outrushed IU, 244-76, averaging 4.9 yards per carry in the process. SIU held a 386-314 advantage in total offense, as well.
"It was a great win for our University, alumni, fans and our kids," stated Kill. "We're certainly going to enjoy it."
SIU remains on the road to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 23.
Game Notes: SIU played its third game all-time against a Big Ten Conference opponent...prior to the win today, the Salukis had lost twice against Illinois in 1985 (28-25) and 1990 (56-21)...the Gateway Conference is now 1-19 all-time against Big Ten Conference schools...since dropping to I-AA status prior to the 1983 season (63 scholarships), the Salukis are 2-20 against I-A teams...those wins came today against Indiana, and in 1983 against New Mexico State...Arkee Whitlock has rushed for over 100 yards in 10 of his last 14 games...Nick Hill has either rushed or passed for over 100 yards in his first two starts as SIU's quarterback...fullback J.T. Wise had seven carries for 42 yards, averaging six yards per carry...prior to today, Wise had gone 12 consecutive games without a carry...he also had three catches for 25 yards...Braden Jones' touchdown near the end of the first half ended a span of 60:08 in which the Hoosiers had gone without allowing any points to their opponents.