Emmanuel Souarin returned an INT for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Sept. 22, 2012
By Tom Weber
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Southern Illinois defense did everything but drive the bus on Saturday, carrying the team to a 14-6 win over Missouri State.
The defense supplied half of the team's points on a 44-yard, first-quarter interception return by cornerback Emmanuel Souarin, and it covered up a shaky performance from an offense that mustered just one solid drive all afternoon.
Souarin's interception, in which he baited quarterback Ashton Glaser into a risky throw, gave the Salukis (2-2, 1-0) an early 7-0 lead. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the offense marched 63 yards in six plays for a touchdown, as Southern pulled out to a 14-0 lead 10 minutes into the game. Mulku Kalokoh had a 36-yard carry on the drive and then caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Kory Faulkner.
Saluki head coach Dale Lennon probably would have been fine to end the game right there, but Southern had to grind through three more quarters against the Bears (0-4, 0-1), who were able to move the ball between the 20s, but could never find the end zone.
The first major turning point came early in the second quarter when Southern's defense rose up to stuff MSU tailback Ryan Heaston on four-straight carries inside its 10 yardline. On 4th-and-3, Heaston was swarmed by nose tackle Kayon Swanson and linebacker Joe Okon.
The goal line stand provided only temporary relief, as the offense went 3-and-out and punter Austin Pucylowski's 26-yard boot gave Missouri State the ball back at SIU's 30.
Once again, however, the defense stuffed Heaston, and Glaser threw a pair of incompletions. The Bears settled for a 43-yard Austin Witmer field goal that made the score 14-6 with 6:48 left in the first half. Neither team would score again.
"There were several times in the first half when we had them on their heels and should have walked into the end zone, but we didn't," said Missouri State head coach Terry Allen.
The second half was a punt-fest for both teams. Ten-straight series ended in punts as the special teams maneuvered for field position. Southern was poised to put the game away when Bears' punter Chris Sullens shanked a one-yard punt that gave SIU field position at MSU's 21. After SIU's drive stalled at the 8, kicker Jackson MacLachlan's 25-yard field goal bounced off the left upright.
"You have to make them," Lennon said. "It was critical. It should have been a two-score game and given us some breathing room. We didn't close the game out when we had a chance. We have to be more opportunistic."
The only time Missouri State breached SIU's territory in the second half came midway through the fourth quarter, when Heaston galloped 25 yards to the SIU 37. On the next play, backup quarterback Kierra Harris was crushed by safety Luke Thuston, coughing up the ball to cornerback Terrell Wilson.
With 2:24 remaining in the game, Missouri State had one last chance on offense, but Glaser was picked off on the first play of the drive by Courtney Richmond.
Southern's defense had little help from a Saluki offense that was 0-for-13 on third-down conversions. Missouri State had an 83-57 advantage in total plays and a 362-198 edge in yardage.
"I think the key stat in the game was that we didn't turn the ball over," Lennon said. "If you don't turn the ball over, you don't put your defense in a bad situation. We didn't play all that well offensively, but when you limit turnovers, you give yourself a chance to win."
After passing for a career-high 384 yards last week against Southeast Missouri State, Faulkner was 11-of-25 for 55 yards against the Bears.
"Kory had some throws that he just didn't execute to the level he's capable of doing," Lennon admitted.
Missouri State entered the game last in total defense in the conference, although that number is skewed by two games against ranked FBS opponents.
"(Missouri State) just played very base football, there was nothing all that fancy, they weren't doing any special schemes," Lennon said. "They made us earn everything. I don't think we were on top of our game."
After going 2-6 in the conference last season, Lennon said even an ugly win is a good win.
"We're a work in progress and we're getting better week by week," he said. "The offense didn't have the showing they wanted this week, but there's no reason not to expect them to step up next week."