The Saluki defense recorded three sacks and four interceptions in the victory.
Oct. 6, 2012
NORMAL, Ill. - Southern Illinois spoiled Illinois State's homecoming as the SIU defense turned in a nearly flawless performance in a 17-0 upset win over the No. 9 ranked Redbirds (5-1, 2-1) Saturday afternoon at Hancock Stadium. It was the first road win over a top 10 team for Southern Illinois (3-3, 2-1) since knocking off No. 9 South Dakota State in 2009.
The victory was a signature win for the Dawgs, who have not allowed a touchdown in each of their last two road games.
Southern's Anthony Thompson scooped up a blocked punt and ran 16 yards for a touchdown with 5:38 left in the first quarter to give SIU a 7-0 lead. It was all the help the Saluki defense needed on the afternoon.
"Watching on film, we just felt that their punter was not protected by the shield in the middle," Coach Dale Lennon said of the decision to bring the rush on ISU punter Patrick Wright early in the game. "We felt we could get a potential block coming off the edge. The way it all presented itself, it all worked out just like we had practiced, and the guys did a good job executing."
The Salukis kept ISU's offense off rhythm all day, forcing four interceptions en route to their first shutout since 2009. Redbird quarterback Matt Brown had only thrown three interceptions all season entering the game.
A pair of Illinois State fourth quarter drives reached SIU territory before each ended with an interception. Terrell Wilson picked off Brown at the SIU 29 with 6:30 left in the game, and Bryan Presume ended any thoughts of a comeback with an interception at the two-yard line with just under four minutes remaining the game.
"We started to mix up the coverage when we had eight guys dropping back and getting pressure with a three man rush," Lennon said. "That helped us create a few turnovers."
Kory Faulkner struggled for three quarters for the Salukis but made quality throws in the fourth quarter on a 91-yard touchdown drive which gave SIU a 17-0 advantage and put the game out of reach. On the drive, he completed all four pass attempts for 54 yards, including a 32-yard strike to MyCole Pruitt over the middle.
Those were the Salukis' only four pass attempts of the fourth quarter as they kept the ball on the ground for much of the second half. SIU ran for 109 yards on 47 attempts, but the offense did not turn the ball over.
"We wanted to be able to run the ball effectively," Lennon said. "We had limited success. It wasn't one of those games where you're going to be able to brag about your rushing yards, but we did do enough to do what we needed to."
Illinois State entered the game averaging 455.4 yards of total offense and nearly 40 points per game but could not make any clutch plays. The Redbirds faced 12 third downs and did not convert a single one as the Dawgs held them to 257 yards in the game.
Tyler Williamson had a break out day for the Dawgs. The sophomore linebacker led the team with seven tackles. He also added a sack and his first career interception.
"All day we refused to let them in the end zone," Williamson said. "Our offense did the things they had to do, and we won the game."