Salukis upset No. 7/9 SDSU for crucial road victory

    Malcolm Agnew ran for 105 yards on 17 carries.

    Malcolm Agnew ran for 105 yards on 17 carries.
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    Oct. 5, 2013

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    BROOKINGS, S.D. - Southern Illinois held on for a 27-24 win to knock off No. 7/9 South Dakota State Saturday afternoon on the muddy terrain at Coughlin Alumni Stadium. After falling a single play short of a victory in its first two games against ranked opponents this season, SIU stepped up to make the big plays when needed to earn a signature win.

    With the win, the Salukis (3-3, 1-1 MVFC) broke a streak of three straight losses to the Jackrabbits (3-3, 0-2 MVFC). 

    Southern Illinois was clinging to a three-point lead and just over a minute left in the game. SDSU faced a fourth-and-two when Austin Sumner threw an incomplete pass to Trevor Wesley, who was tightly defended by D.J. Cameron. That gave the ball back to the Salukis at their own 40-yardline, and SIU took a couple knees to cement the victory.

    “The confidence for our defense right now is huge,” SIU quarterback Kory Faulkner said. “They were able to get a stop, and I think this is could be a turning point for the rest of our season.”

    SIU built a 27-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter when Faulkner capped a nine-play, 65-yard drive with a three-yard run into the end zone on an option play for his second rushing touchdown of the game.

    The Jackrabbits responded when Zach Zenner plowed into the end zone for a one-yard score on fourth-and-goal and cut the lead to 27-24 with 4:04 left on the clock.

    The torn up field and cold temperatures made for a more simplified, old school-type game.

    “You don’t want to call plays where you’re trying to make big cuts,” SIU Coach Dale Lennon said. “It was a more straight ahead, north-south mentality. We weren’t asking the players to do something that would force them to slip and negate the play.”

    The game featured a momentum swing in the final minute of the first half. With the game tied at 10-10, SIU had the ball at the Jacks’ 12-yardline in position to score and take a lead into the break. However, Charles Elmore jumped in front of Faulkner’s pass to MyCole Pruitt and returned the interception 89 yards to give SDSU a 17-10 halftime advantage.

    “I definitely shouldn’t have put it there,” Faulkner said. “Being in that situation with time left on the clock, I definitely wish I would’ve thrown that away, but he made a good play on it.”

    After leading or being tied the entire game before the pick-six, the Salukis used it as motivation for the second half.

    “I think we actually rallied around that (interception) at halftime,” Lennon said, “and we came out probably as focused as we’ve ever been coming out of a halftime break.”

    Southern wasted no time taking the momentum back. On the fourth play of the second half, Faulkner lofted a pass down the right sideline to John Lantz. The senior made the catch near the 25-yardline, avoided a defender and turned it into a 59-yard touchdown.

    “They gave me a look that we were wanting,” Faulkner said. “That’s probably one of the best balls I’ve ever thrown in college. To get the game tied, it was like starting over at 0-0, and we had the momentum, so that was big.”

    With temperatures in the mid-40s, Southern’s offense had a balanced attack with 185 passing yards and 189 yards on the ground. Malcolm Agnew led SIU’s ground game with 17 attempts for 105 yards, his second 100-yard effort of the season. Ken Malcome added 50 yards on 11 carries.

    “That’s what we’ve been looking for, and that’s what we know we have,” Lennon said. “It was good to see (the running game) as effective as it was today against a top team, and hopefully we can continue to execute it at that level.”

    The road will not get any easier for SIU with back-to-back games against No. 4 Northern Iowa and No. 1 North Dakota State over the next two weeks.

    “We’ll enjoy this for a little bit and then move onto Northern Iowa,” Lennon said. “With each game that we play, our confidence is getting better and better, so we’re ready for that next challenge.”