Sept. 25, 2010
By Jason Clay
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Youngstown State forced four turnovers and scored 31 unanswered points to defeat Southern Illinois, 31-28, Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both schools.
Southern Illinois (1-3, 0-1 MVFC) has now dropped three-straight and this defeat ends SIU's 14-game conference winning streak, which is the all-time league record. This is the first time since 2002 that SIU has lost three-straight games and the first time since 2001 that Southern has lost a MVFC opener. Youngstown State improves to 3-1 on the year and 1-0 in league play.
SIU opened up with a 14-0 lead, but failed to score in the middle two quarters. The four turnovers, three of which came in the second quarter, led to Southern's demise on Saturday.
"You can't make the mistakes that we made tonight and expect to win," head coach Dale Lennon said. "That's what is discouraging and I think that we are better than what we showed. We have to play smarter football and be able to execute at a higher level on a more consistent basis."
Youngstown State dominated the ball for a majority of the game, controlling possession for 37:16 in comparison to Southern's 22:44.
Senior quarterback Chris Dieker opened the game up by completing 7-of-8 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, but finished 24-for-42 for 258 yards and two TDs with two interceptions.
Joe Allaria had nine catches in the game, including a 37-yard catch for a touchdown to pull Southern to within three with less than a minute to go in the game. His third reception was the 100th of his career.
Jeff Evans lifted a somewhat stagnant SIU offense, tallying10 catches for 100 total yards.
YSU's offense was led by quarterback Kurt Hess, who completed 9-of-15 passes for 94 total yards and three touchdowns. Jamaine Cook added 111 yards and one TD in 26 attempts on the ground.
The storyline of the first half was turnovers and special teams play.
Both teams missed field goals on their opening drives, and Luke Thuston's blocked punt sparked a flurry for the Salukis to end the first quarter.
Taylon Hunter returned Thuston's block 38-yards for a touchdown for the first points of the game.
On YSU's third play after the punt block, Chance Coda's sack on Hess knocked the ball free and T.J. Shine recovered for SIU on its own 49-yard line. Southern then only needed three plays to find the end zone, as Dieker hit John Goode on an eight-yard pass with four seconds left in the opening period.
The 14-point lead didn't last long though, as Hess found Kevin Watts for a pair of touchdown passes in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter. The first was a 15-yard pass and the second score was set up on a Dieker fumble caused by David Rach's sack.
Southern finished the half with three turnovers, and it was the third giveaway that gave Youngstown State the opportunity to take a 21-14 lead into the half.
Dieker was picked off near midfield, allowing Hess to throw his third touchdown of the game. This time he hit tight end Carson Sharbaugh on a third-and-goal at 1:32.
YSU picked off Dieker for the second time at 7:37 of the third quarter, giving the Guins the ball at their own 22-yard line. Four plays later, Cook gave Youngstown State a 28-14 lead on a one-yard touchdown run.
A 37-yard Stephen Blose field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Penguins a 31-14 lead.
Southern knocked on Youngstown's door with 1:28 left in the game on a four-yard rush from Dieker sealed with a Kyle Dougherty extra point. Five plays later, after a successful on-side kick, Dieker found Allaria for SIU's final score of the game.
SIU was unable to recover a second on-side's kick and ended up falling by three points.