Bryan Presume led the Salukis with 11 tackles to go along with his blocked field goal, which he returned for a touchdown.
Nov. 2, 2013
MACOMB, Ill. – Southern Illinois won its third straight conference road game with a 34-28 victory over Western Illinois Saturday afternoon at Hanson Field. The Salukis (5-4, 3-2 MVFC) led the entire way but did not put the game away until late in the fourth quarter against the WIU (3-7, 1-5 MVFC). SIU has now won three of its last four games and five of its last seven to remain in the playoff hunt.
“It’s the type of game we expected,” Lennon said. “(WIU) has come back against every other team they’ve played so far. We knew it’d be a challenge. We just had a tough time putting them away, and they kept battling.”
The play of the game came with five minutes left in the third quarter. With Southern leading 20-14, linebacker Bryan Presume blocked the Leathernecks’ 32-yard field goal attempt. Safety D.J. Cameron batted the ball forward in an attempt to recover the loose ball before Presume finally scooped it up and returned it for a score to extend the lead to 27-14.
“I got under the tight end and was able to get to the kicker and just put my hands out and make the block,” Presume said. “I was waiting on D.J. to actually scoop the ball. It took him too long, so I did it for him.”
Western still had a chance in the final minute of the game when Lance Lenoir made a leaping touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone to cut SIU’s lead to 34-28 with 30 seconds left in the game. However, the ensuing on-side kick attempt went out of bounds, and the Salukis took a knee to end the game.
Southern took a 34-21 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter when Malcolm Agnew followed up a 25-yard run with an eight-yard touchdown run. He finished with 107 yards on 20 carries.
“Chris Davis does have some very good ball skills,” Lennon said. “He has the ability to play the ball when it’s in the air, and it was good today to see those skills come out and good to see him make plays.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan West made his first career start for SIU and threw two touchdown passes in the first 10 minutes of the game to give the Salukis a quick 14-0 lead. He said the quick scores took away any nervousness and boosted everyone’s confidence.
“It was huge, not only for me but also for the team as well,” West said. “Going up two scores early, I think that takes a lot of the pressure off the rest of the guys as well.”
Western Illinois outgained the Salukis by nearly 200 yards, piling up 460 yards of total offense. The Leathernecks were led by running back J.C. Baker, who ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts. He ran for 110 yards in the second half to help keep WIU in the game.
While Presume compared Baker’s running style to Barry Sanders, Lennon was reminded of a former Saluki back.
“He really reminds me a lot of Larry Warner,” Lennon said. “He’s just a tough guy to tackle. A lot of his plays, we were there at the point of attack, and where he makes you pay is that he bounces it. You tell your guys don’t overpursue, and then once you do that, you give up seams in the middle. He’s just a difficult back to defend.”
Southern’s strong special teams play coupled with Western Illinois’ poor punting helped SIU with a short field for most of the game. The Leathernecks punted six times for an average of 22.7 yards while Saluki punter Austin Pucylowski averaged 43.8 yards. On six of SIU’s 14 drives, the Salukis had starting field position at the Leathernecks’ 40-yardline or better.
Overall, Lennon was pleased with his team’s effort to pull out a road victory against an opponent that fought until the end.
“I’m proud of our guys how we hung together,” Lennon said. “There were a lot of momentum swings throughout the course of the game. There are definitely things we need to get better at, but at the same time, when we needed to make plays, we did make plays, and we found a way to win the ballgame.”