Sept. 24, 2011
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Freshman kicker Jackson MacLachlan booted a 27-yard, game-winning field goal to lift Southern Illinois past Missouri State, 20-18, on Saturday night.
After a timeout by the Bears (0-4, 0-1), MacLachlan, a walk-on from Springfield, Mo., calmly split the uprights, sending the Saluki sideline into a celebration of both excitement and relief.
"I just remember thinking with two minutes left that it was going to come down to a kick, and so I was preparing mentally," said MacLachlan, whose kick with 50 seconds remaining capped a 62-yard, 11-play drive. "Still, I was extremely nervous."
The work wasn't quite done yet for the Salukis (2-1, 1-0), however. After a nice kickoff return by Julian Burton, the Bears took possession at their own 39 with 45 seconds to play. On first down, Saluki linebacker Jayson DiManche dumped quarterback Trevor Wooden for an eight-yard sack. Then Wooden's desperation bomb was picked off by James McFadden.
It was officially time to celebrate a win that gets Southern off on the right foot in conference play. Last year, SIU lost to Youngstown State, 31-28, in the conference opener and never recovered, finishing the conference slate at 4-4.
For Missouri State, a team that was playing its fourth-straight road game, it was a hard-luck loss.
"This is a tough one, and it's going to be a long ride home," said Bears head coach Terry Allen. "One play can change the outcome of a game, and sometimes one play can change the outcome of a season."
The game was a coming out party for Saluki tailback Jewel Hampton. The Iowa transfer was relentless between the tackles and piled up 119 yards and nearly six yards per carry. He didn't break any long runs, but he delivered plenty of blows along the way.
Quarterback Paul McIntosh also had a big night for SIU with 206 yards passing and 60 rushing. He scored the team's only two touchdowns on runs of 12 and 16 yards, helping the Salukis to a 14-12 halftime lead.
Southern piled up a 418-292 advantage in total yards, but a gallant effort by Wooden and tailback Chris Douglas, who rushed for 85 yards on 14 carries, kept the Bears within striking distance. They finally took the lead, 18-17, on a Douglas one-yard on the last play of the third quarter. The two-point conversion failed.
"You have to give Missouri State credit," said Saluki head coach Dale Lennon. "They are a gutsy team. They did what they had to do to give themselves a chance to win the ballgame."
The Saluki defense only sacked the elusive Wooden twice, but it was a constant presence in the backfield and delivered plenty of licks. Wooden was 9-of-13 passing, but three of his four incompletions were interceptions.
"Defensively I thought we did good with our pass defense," Lennon said. "A lot of it goes to the guys up front. We brought pressure on them and forced a quicker throw."
There were plenty of big performances on both sides of the ball for the Salukis. Wide receiver Cam Fuller caught a career-high six passes for 120 yards. He made a one-handed grab of a 45-yard bomb from McIntosh in the second quarter and made several diving snags near the sidelines to keep drives alive in the second half.
"Everything goes to back to what we do in practice," said Fuller, a senior who entered the season with just four career catches, but now leads the club with 11. "As receivers, we take great pride in doing all the reps right in practice, and it pays off in the game."
On defense, nose tackle Kayon Swanson remains virtually unblockable. He had a couple of tackles and a pair of quarterback hurries. He also drew two flags on the offense for holding and chop-blocking. DiManche was a force, as well, administering five tackles, a sack and his first career interception.
While admitting his team's execution could have been better, Lennon was pleased to see his team rise to the challenge with the fourth quarter comeback.
"The thing I was proud of is when you can find a way to win the game at the very end," he said. "It reminded me a lot of the 2008 team where we had a lot of close wins that went down to the last second. Maybe this is something we can build on and do well down the stretch."