Linebacker Bryan Presume set a school record with his 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Oct. 13, 2012
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois kicker Austin Johnson shook off a first quarter blocked extra point and delivered a game-winning field in the final minute to give SIU a 34-31 victory over rival Northern Iowa Saturday afternoon at Saluki Stadium.
The kick, a 24-yarder, capped a 19-play drive that ate up over nine minutes of the fourth quarter and left 0:59 on the clock.
"It felt really great," Johnson said. "I was actually a little bit in shock because I hit the ball really well, but I was thinking oh God, oh God, and it ended up going through. I was on cloud nine when I was done."
SIU twice converted on fourth-and-1 on what proved to be the game-winning drive. Casey DeHoedt gave UNI a chance as he returned the ensuing kick 43 yards, and a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty gave the Panthers the ball at SIU's 39 with 0:50 left on the clock.
However, Southern's defense took over the remainder of the game, sacking quarterback Brett Kollmorgen on the first two plays of the drive. Kollmorgen spiked the ball to stop the clock on third down and threw an incomplete pass on fourth down to give the ball back to SIU. Kory Faulkner took a knee to preserve the win.
"That's a defense you want to send out on the field," SIU Coach Dale Lennon said. "You want a confident defense that can go out there and make a stop when they have to."
Northern Iowa seemed on the brink of putting away the Salukis in the first half. UNI held a 21-6 lead after Kollmorgen completed a 76-yard touchdown pass to Brett LeMaster with 10:36 left in the second quarter. From there, Southern responded with 25 unanswered points to take control.
The momentum swung on two big plays. Ken Boatright blocked a punt at the 18 yard line and recovered it in the end zone to cut the deficit to 21-13 with 7:40 left in the half. It was the Salukis' second blocked punt returned for a touchdown in as many weeks.
UNI was poised to build back its lead when running back David Johnson fumbled near the goal line. SIU's Bryan Presume picked up the ball in the end zone and ran 100 yards for the score. It was the longest fumble return in school history.
"I saw the ball, picked it up and started running," Presume said. "At the 40 or so I ran out of gas. I haven't ran that far with the ball in my hand in a long time."
Following the score, a two-point conversation pass to Adam Fuehne tied the game at 21-21 with just over a minute left in the half. That gave the Salukis a boost of confidence heading into the break with a tie game.
"Those are plays that you can't calculate into the equation of a ball game," Lennon said. "You're fortunate when you make them, but it does indicate a little bit of the personality of the team that you're coaching. The guys refused to give up."
The Salukis put together an impressive drive late in the third quarter to regain the lead. With the score still tied at 21-21, Faulkner led the Dawgs 73 yards on a 14-play drive that lasted just under seven minutes. UNI helped Southern with two 15-yard personal foul penalties on the drive, which Johnson capped with a 34-yard field goal to give SIU a 24-21 lead.
SIU extended the lead to 31-21 20 seconds later. After Kayon Swanson stripped Carlos Anderson, Blake Miller fell on the fumble to give the Salukis the ball back. On the first play of the drive, Faulkner completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to MyCole Pruitt.
Faulkner completed his first seven pass attempts and was efficient overall, completing 16 of his 20 passes for 135 yards. Half of those completions were to LaSteven McKinney, who led the team with 68 receiving yards.
Faulkner opened the scoring with a 49-yard touchdown run on SIU's opening drive and finished the day with a career-best 73 rushing yards.
With the victory, SIU has won four out of its last five games and is above .500 for the first time this year.
"After starting the season 0-2, not a lot of people gave us a chance," Faulkner said. "I think everyone took us as a joke in the conference, but after beating Illinois State and UNI on back-to-back weeks we're proving ourselves."
At 3-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, Southern finds itself in the thick of a tight race.
"We believe we can possibly be a team that can contend for a championship," Lennon said.