Oct. 21, 2006
By Jeff Honza
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Western Kentucky University (4-3, 3-1) scored two touchdowns in the last seven minutes of the game to overcome a 14-point deficit and stun No. 13 Southern Illinois (5-2, 2-2), 27-24, earlier tonight in Gateway Conference action at McAndrew Stadium.
WKU trailed, 24-10, at halftime after surrendering 17 points on special teams, but held the Salukis scoreless for the entire second half. The Hilltoppers also controlled the clock, holding a commanding 37:59 to 22:01 advantage in time of possession.
Lerron Moore scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter. A successful two-point conversion then gave the Hilltoppers a 27-24 lead.
SIU's final drive of the game was halted byTravis Watters, who intercepted Nick Hill's pass at the Dawgs' 47-yard line.
SIU returned two punts for touchdowns and Craig Coffin made a 47-yard field goal to key a 17-point special teams surge in the first half.
"W e have to do a better job on offense and at the same time have to get better on defense," said Saluki head coach Jerry Kill. "We haven't played together as a team the last two games. Each unit hasn't done their job of helping each other out. If you win, you win together, if you lose you lose together."
Ian Lundy blocked a punt at WKU's 29-yard line during the Hilltoppers' second drive of the game. Alan Turner scooped up the ball and returned it 12 yards into the end zone to give the Salukis a 7-0 lead with 5:26 left in the first quarter.
After John Randle's 9-yard touchdown run gave SIU a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter, the Salukis forced the Hilltoppers to punt from their own 49-yard line on the next possession.
But, it was gut-check time in the second half.
WKU's offense kept the Saluki defense on the field for nearly 18 minutes in the second half, and executed in the process.
Chris James' 41-yard field goal made it an 11-point game (24-13) with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter.
Justin Haddix then threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jake Gaebler with 7:01 left. WKU attempted to go for two, but came up empty, and as a result, trailed, 24-19.
The Hilltoppers forced the Salukis to punt and took over on downs at their own 41-yard line before marching 59 yards in eight plays for the decisive score.
SIU made it into WKU territory only once in the fourth quarter.
J.T. Wise's 16-yard reception put the ball at the Hilltoppers' 49-yard line. That drive, however, resulted in a punt after personal foul and holding penalties led to SIU facing a 2nd-and-25 at its own 26.
Kill says that is when WKU stole the momentum.
"Football is a game of momentum and that's when things swung their way," said Kill. "I give them credit for executing and eating up the clock the way they did."
Haddix, who completed 19-of-29 passes, threw for 268 yards and one touchdown, while Moore ran for 121 yards and two TDs on 34 carries to lead WKU. The Hilltoppers had 443 yards of total offense, including 166 on the ground and 277 through the air.
Turner piled up 233 yards in returns. He returned three punts for 135 yards and a touchdown, and four kickoffs for 98 yards. SIU had 164 yards in punt returns on the night, marking the second-best single-game total in school history.
"The whole program is built on special teams," said Turner. "We take great pride in them."
"Craig did a great job and is a special football player," added Kill. "He's a great return guy and that's why he was an All-American last year. He's doing everything he can to help us win."
While SIU's special teams turned in a gem of a performance, its offense continued to sputter.
The Salukis turned the ball over once and were held to 200 yards of total offense (129 rush, 71 pass). SIU also snapped the ball just 43 times to WKU's 79.
SIU hits the road for its next two games. The Salukis first visit Missouri State on Oct. 28.
Game Notes: Craig Coffin became the Gateway Conference's all-time leader in points scored...he scored six points on the night and now has 337 in his career...SIU scored a pair of special teams touchdowns in a game for the first time since August 29, 2002...that year, Chris Gadson returned a punt for 89 yards and Quorey Payne returned a kickoff for 47 yards against Kentucky Wesleyan...the Hilltoppers snapped a three-game losing streak against the Salukis...they are now 9-6 versus SIU...the Dawgs have not lost back-to-back games since the end of the 2003 season...SIU lost its last two games of that year (at Northern Iowa and Delaware)...the Salukis have been shut out in the second half in two-straight games (20-0 at Illinois State and 17-0 vs. WKU).