Oct. 9, 2010
By Jason Clay
Dieker led SIU (3-3, 2-1 Missouri Valley Football Conference) back from a 38-31 deficit with 4:36 to play and his 3-yard touchdown run with 1:11 left pushed the game into overtime.
The Salukis were on offense first in the overtime period and on a third-and-3 from the seven, Dieker lobbed a pass to Evans and he was able to get a foot inbounds at the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Southern's defense then came up big and forced Northern Iowa (2-3, 2-1) into a fourth-and-18 with the help from a UNI penalty and a Chance Coda and Kayon Swanson sack. Panther quarterback Tirrell Rennie tried to hit Montari Lenoard in the end zone, but SIU's Buck Buchanan Award candidate Korey Lindsey swatted the pass away to secure the Saluki victory.
"I'm still trying to take everything in with this crazy win," said Evans, who finished with seven catches for a career-high 159 yards and two touchdowns. "I feel like we finally broke in our stadium with this one. Dieker just put a great ball right there in the corner, and I got one foot in."
The win was SIU's 13th in a row at home in MVFC games and ninth-straight homecoming victory. Head coach Dale Lennon's squad has now won back-to-back games after losing three-straight to end the month of September.
"That's why you play the game, because these are special moments," Lennon said. "I'm proud of the team for hanging in there. The guys have a lot of pride in representing SIU Football and I do think that carries us a long ways, and is something pretty significant."
The game was one of runs. Southern Illinois scored 21 unanswered points to take a 31-14 lead at the half. Northern Iowa responded with 24 unanswered after halftime, but Dieker drove SIU down 72 yards in 11 plays to tie the game up in the final minute and force overtime.
"UNI is too good of a team not to expect them to make a run at us in the second half, and they did," Lennon said of the Panthers' comeback. "Our guys responded and that was the good thing. I thought we did keep a very positive sideline, especially in the fourth quarter, and when we needed to respond, we did."
Dieker finished the game with a season-high 263 yards on 20-of-27 passing and two touchdowns. His 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Harruff with 19 seconds left before halftime was the last points SIU scored until Dieker's game-tying touchdown run with a minute left.
The 329 passing yards that Southern had in the game is the most in Lennon's tenure, and the most since SIU had 348 yards through the air against Southeast Missouri State in 2005.
Northern Iowa was led by its explosive quarterback Rennie. He ran for 126 yards and two scores and threw for 104 yards and another touchdown.
The Saluki defense did give up 463 yards of total offense, but they created four turnovers and Southern scored 17 points off the four Panther mishaps. Freshman safety Luke Thuston returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and Robert Spann and Terrell Wilson also had picks.
Southern's running game was held in check, as they only had 85 yards in the game. The Salukis effectively used both quarterbacks, and Paul McIntosh had a team-high 49 yards rushing with one 20-yard touchdown run.
McIntosh also hit Evans on a 66-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Evans beat the defender deep, but was caught and fumbled at the nine while being tackled. He was able to get up and recover it for the touchdown just before the ball went out of the back of the end zone.
Senior linebacker Stephen Franklin led the defense with 10 tackles, which was his second double-digit tackle game of the year. E.J. Clark forced a fumble in the first quarter that set up SIU's first score of the game, a 23-yard field goal from Kyle Dougherty.
"I don't know if it's really set in how we won the game, but I'm just so happy we won," Franklin said. "We're ecstatic right now."