Nose tackle Kayon Swanson tied for the team lead with 11 tackles.
Oct. 27, 2012
By Scott Gierman
FARGO, N.D. - Southern Illinois led most of the way but suffered a 23-17 loss to No. 3 North Dakota State Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,066 at the Fargodome. Once again defense and special teams kept the Salukis (5-4, 4-2) in the game, but the Bison (7-1, 4-1) defense stifled the Saluki offense for most of the contest to snap SIU's three-game winning streak.
"In the previous three weeks, we've been in games very similar to this one," SIU Coach Dale Lennon said. "We've been able to make plays, like we did today, that gave us a chance to win at the end. Today, we just couldn't find the right combination to pull it off."
The Bison took their first lead with 5:23 left in the game on John Crockett's five-yard touchdown burst up the middle. SIU's Ken Boatright blocked the extra point attempt, but Southern could not manage a scoring drive in the final minutes.
"I thought we blocked the extra point for a reason," Lennon said. "There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to make a play that was going to win the game."
Down 23-17, SIU took over at its own 19-yard line with just over five minutes left in the game, but after a pair of first downs, the potential game-winning drive ended when Kory Faulkner was flushed from the pocket and threw an off-balance pass. It was intercepted by Marcus Williams near midfield, and NDSU ran out the remaining 3:37 from the clock to seal the game.
"This was a classic game where we set ourselves up pretty well to be successful heading into the fourth quarter," Lennon said. "We just didn't have enough juice in the tank to finish the game like we needed to."
NDSU tied the game at 17-17 with a 79-yard scoring drive, which ended two minutes into the fourth quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 50-yard pass from Brock Jensen to Andrew Okland. Jensen lined up in the slot and went in motion to the backfield where he received a flip from the tailback and delivered a strike to Okland.
However, the Salukis would manage just one more first down until their final drive. NDSU held Southern to -7 rushing yards after the first drive. Tailback Steve Strother was limited to one carry in the game after suffering a knee injury last week.
The Bison held possession for over 40 minutes of the game and recorded 23 first downs compared to the Salukis, who managed just eight first downs. North Dakota State piled up 386 yards of total offense and held Southern to 79 yards in the final three quarters of the game.
"We knew that time of possession was going to be one of those key stats," Lennon said. "Football is changing, and it's not as big of a stat as it used to be. But when two teams like this play with a similar game, then it becomes big. Field position was huge, and time of possession was huge."
Southern took a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter when Tyler Williamson came unblocked on an outside blitz and unloaded on Jensen, forcing a fumble on the sack. Brandon Williams picked up the fumble and ran 55 yards untouched for a score.
Williamson also blocked a field goal attempt nine minutes into the second half as NDSU tried to cut the lead to 14-13. Instead it led to an Austin Johnson field goal to extend SIU's lead to 17-10.
With two games left on the schedule, the Salukis still have hope for a playoff berth.
"We're still alive," Lennon said. "The magic number that people throw out there is seven (wins). We only have two games left, and both games are at home. We think that we have a chance to get to seven. We have to regroup tomorrow and get back to work."
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