Oct. 28, 2006
By Jeff Honza
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A.J. Wallace's blocked punt rallied No. 19 Southern Illinois University (6-2, 3-2) to an emotional 27-17 win over Missouri State (1-8, 0-5) earlier today at Plaster Field.
Inspired by head coach Jerry Kill, who watched the game from the press box after he was hospitalized due to a seizure last Sunday, SIU came up big again on special teams and never looked back.
"This win was huge coming off of two losses and it was huge that Coach Kill showed up," said Tracy Claeys, who assumed head coaching duties for Kill.
Sid Rone recovered a John Randle fumble and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown to give MSU a 10-3 lead with 10:37 left in the second quarter.
SIU then forced MSU to punt on its next possession, where Wallace rushed the middle to block Nate Stokes' punt at the Bears' 39-yard line.
Wallace's big play on special teams led to 24 unanswered points for the Dawgs.
"I was worried how we would react after the fumble," said Tracy Claeys, who assumed head coaching duties after Jerry Kill was hospitalized due to a seizure last Sunday. "We controlled the game from that point on."
SIU added another touchdown on its third possession of the second half .
The Salukis took over on downs at their own 4-yard line following a 51-yard punt by Stokes. SIU then went 96 yards in 10 plays.
Four plays into the drive, Hill broke free for a 43-yard run to give SIU a first down at the MSU 40. Hill also completed a 17-yard pass to Jones and ran for 11 more yards, before Whitlock capped the march with a 4-yard touchdown run at the 1:52 mark in the third quarter.
Another Coffin field goal, this time from 31 yards out, pushed SIU's lead to 27-10 with 8:47 left to play, before Tyler Horner's 1-yard touchdown run kept MSU from being shut out in the second half on the Bears' final drive of the game.
Whitlock rushed for 84 yards and two TDs, and Hill completed 15-of-19 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown to key SIU offensively.
Chauncey Mixon led the Saluki defense with a career-high 11 tackles, including one sack and two for a loss. He also had three pass breakups as well.
Horner completed 24-of-40 passes for 221 yards to lead MSU. He also ran for one TD.
The Bears also went without a third-down conversion in the first half and finished with 42 yards of rushing offense.
SIU remains on the road to face No. 10 Youngstown State on Nov. 4.
Game Notes: Some of the Saluki coaches wore T-Shirts with the words "Tacklin' the Tough Times," which is the slogan of head coach Jerry Kill's Cancer Foundation ... Kill was presented with the game ball from today's contest ... three different Salukis have blocked a punt in the last four games ... Braden Jones (vs. Western Illinois), Ian Lundy (vs. Western Kentucky) and A.J. Wallace (vs. Missouri State) make up that group ... Arkee Whitlock rushed for under 100 yards for the second-straight game ... SIU snapped a two-game losing streak and handed the Bears their seventh-straight loss ... today's win marked SIU's 40th with Kill at the SIU helm ... Kill is the fastest Saluki football head coach to 40 wins.