No. 25 Youngstown State comeback sinks Salukis in 28-27 loss

    MyCole Pruitt had eight catches for 83 yards in the game.

    MyCole Pruitt had eight catches for 83 yards in the game.
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    Sept. 28, 2013

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    CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois surrendered a 13-point fourth quarter lead and failed to knock off No. 25 Youngstown State in a 28-27 loss in the third annual Black Out Cancer game Saturday night at Saluki Stadium. A missed Saluki extra-point attempt just before halftime left the door open for the fourth-quarter comeback.

    "It's disappointing losing the game, not having the ability to make the last play," SIU Coach Dale Lennon said. "We just simply couldn't find the successful play to bring us out of the hole."

    YSU's Kurt Hess gave the Penguins (4-1, 1-0 MVFC) the lead with 1:50 left in the game when he found tight end Carson Sharbaugh in the back of the end zone for a one-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 1:50 left in the game. It was Hess' fourth touchdown of the game and gave YSU its first lead over the Salukis (2-3, 0-1 MVFC) since early in the second quarter.

    SIU's potential game-winning drive ended when Saluki tight end MyCole Pruitt caught a pass from Kory Faulkner and fumbled the ball at the YSU 38-yardline with 43 seconds left in the game. Pruitt suffered a knee injury on the play.

    "MyCole wasn't going to go down if it wasn't for (injuring) his knee," Lennon said. "He was going to fight for every inch. Him fighting so hard is probably why he got injured."

    Faulkner matched a career high with four touchdown passes in the losing effort. That accounted for all of Southern's scoring in the game. However, Youngstown State held the Salukis scoreless in the second half.

    Faulkner threw two touchdown passes in the final six minutes of the first half to give SIU a 27-14 lead. The second of those two scores came with 0:09 left on the clock and capped a 78-yard drive. However, Thomas Kinney missed the PAT. Faulkner led the Salukis on three touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer in the first half.

    Behind an injury-depleted line, Faulkner was also the leading rusher for the Salukis with 71 yards on 14 attempts. Coupled with his 348 passing yards, the senior accounted for 419 of Southern's 452 yards of total offense. That is the second-highest amount of total offense produced by a single SIU player in a game in school history.

    "I'm a competitor, so if it takes me running the ball, or Malcolm (Agnew), or anyone on the team, I just try to do what's best for this offense," Faulkner said. "Tonight I was able to make some people miss and able to get downfield and get us first downs. It wasn't planned, but it's whatever you have to do."

    The Saluki offense piled up 332 of its 452 yards of total offense in the first half as Youngstown struggled to put pressure on Faulkner.

    "We had breakdowns (in the second half), unfortunately," Lennon said. "We had individual breakdowns that kept pulling us under."