Oct. 1, 2011
By Tom Weber
MACOMB, Ill. - Saluki safety Boo Rodgers took a gamble, and Leatherneck receiver Terriun Crump made him pay.
With the game between Southern Illinois and Western Illinois tied, 21-21, and seemingly headed for overtime with 26 seconds left, Rodgers tried to pick off a Josh Hudson sideline pass for Crump. The ball went off his hands, into the arms of Crump, who raced untouched 77 yards down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
The 27-21 victory for the Leathernecks (2-3, 1-1) snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Salukis (2-2, 1-1).
Western Illinois clearly felt its best chance to beat Southern was through the air. Hudson came out firing to start the game, throwing the ball 11 times on the team's first two drives, both of which ended in touchdown strikes. On the day, he completed 20-of-30 passes for 307 yards and four TDs.
The Leathernecks used a no-huddle offense almost exclusively throughout the game, and it had Southern's defense on its heels, at least initially.
"It's not something we expected, and I think it kind of threw us off early," said Saluki safety Mike McElroy.
Trailing 14-0 early in the second quarter, Southern missed a couple of scoring opportunities deep in Western territory. First, Jackson MacLachlan could not convert a 28-yard field goal. On the next drive, the offense was stopped short on 4th-and-1 at the WIU 25. During the series, the Salukis also lost starting quarterback Paul McIntosh, who hurt his left shoulder on a four-yard carry.
Second-team quarterback Kory Faulkner finally put the team on the board late in the first half, guiding a 17-play, 76-yard drive that ended in a seven-yard touchdown pass to Luke Standiford and cut the deficit to 14-7.
Faulkner made the most of his first chance for extended playing time. The sophomore completed 12-of-23 passes of 143 yards and added 70 yards on the ground.
"Kory played a good game," said SIU head coach Dale Lennon. "What he did today shows me he's been doing his homework and preparing for his opportunity."
After a 24-yard touchdown pass from Hudson to Crump put Western ahead, 21-7, early in the third quarter, the Salukis finally established their power running game.
Iowa transfer Jewel Hampton busted free for a 20-yard touchdown scamper to make it 21-14, and midway through the fourth quarter he added a four-yard plunge to tie the game with 8:47 remaining.
Hampton seemed to break tackles on nearly every carry, punishing defenders to the tune of 146 yards rushing and a 6.6 average.
"Jewel makes the running game go for us right now," Lennon said. "He's great with yards after contact and has the ability to potentially break the long run. He'll become more and more a part of the offense and we'll be smart in how we use him."
His rugged style appeared to energize the Saluki sideline and spark the team's comeback.
"We have no quitters in our locker room," Hampton said. "I just see defenders as objects in my way. We knew we'd comeback even with the setbacks we had."
Both teams appeared content to play overtime. SIU punted on 4th-and-1 from its own 31 with 1:05 to play. Austin Pucylowski's 54-yard punt pinned Western at its 15. After an eight-yard run by Caulton Ray, Hudson fired the stunning, game-winning strike to Crump.
Lennon said his team has to, "learn how not to be our own worst enemy. Some of it is knowing when to take a chance, playing smart defense. The other part is making tackles when you have a chance."
SIU's defense gave up five pass plays of at least 20 yards.
"Those big plays were lack of execution on our part," admitted McElory. "We were being put in the right spot all day, and we knew what they were going to come with. It just comes down to one guy missing a call and one guy not playing the right technique. Those are the things that beat you."