Nov. 3, 2007
By Jeff Honza
MACOMB, Ill. - Nick Hill threw for 250 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown and the defense made a huge stand late in the game to secure No. 6 Southern Illinois University's 10-9 come-from-behind victory over No. 19 Western Illinois earlier today at Hanson Field.
SIU, which took over sole possession of second place in the Gateway, improved to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the conference. WIU fell to 6-4 and 3-2 in league play.
Head coach Jerry Kill (100-56) picked up his 100th career victory, as Southern took down the Leathernecks for the sixth-straight time.
"This was a big win for our program," said Kill. "You have to have great players to win games and I've been fortunate to coach a lot of great players. These guys battled their guts out today."
SIU trailed WIU for three quarters before finding its rhythm in the game's final 15 minutes.
The Salukis took over on downs at their own 20-yard line before Hill calmly engineered another impressive drive.
Hill completed seven passes, including four consisting of 12 or more yards, to get the Dawgs within striking distance on their opening drive of the fourth quarter.
Hill threw a 12-yard completion to Rick Burgess to get SIU to the Leathernecks' 1-yard line. Moments after WIU jumped offsides, Hill scored on a 1-yard run to give the Salukis a 10-9 lead with 8:18 left to play.
Hill's second rushing TD of the season capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive for the Dawgs.
WIU immediately moved into SIU territory on its next possession, but faced a 4th-and-2 at the Salukis' 44-yard line. Herb Donaldson took the handoff and ran to the left side, but was dropped by Andre Tillman and Clayton Johnson for no gain.
This time, Hill and company managed to get inside WIU's 10-yard line, as a pair of first-down catches by tight end Byron Gettis keyed the surge.
The drive, however, came to a halt when the Leathernecks recovered John Randle's fumble at the 6-yard line with 1:27 remaining.
With one last chance and one of the best kickers in the league, WIU went to work behind redshirt-freshman quarterback Matt Barr.
Eight plays into the drive, Barr completed a 14-yard pass to Drew Holt, who was shoved out of bounds at the SIU 48-yard line.
Barr ran four yards to the Salukis' 44-yard line on the next play, but after that, the game belonged to SIU's defense.
The Leathernecks burned their final timeout with 27 ticks on the clock before Cloud came free off the edge and sacked Barr for a loss of eight yards. Cloud's monster sack pushed WIU back to its 46-yard line.
"Coach Claeys put me in a position to make that play. My teammates were picking me up the whole game and I thank all of them for helping me make that play," said Cloud.
Two plays later, Barr was picked off by Trevor Moe along the far sideline as time expired.
"It was a cat and mouse game," said Kill. "Western is a good football team. They played well and did a good job of keeping us off balance."
SIU was forced to punt five times and rushed for only 28 yards on 16 carries in the first half alone.
Taylor Rowan, after missing a 47-yard field goal, split the uprights from 56 yards out to give the Leathernecks a 3-0 lead with 4:57 left to play in the first quarter. Rowan's kick matched WIU's school record for the longest field goal in a game.
SIU took over with a short field to work with after Chris Fuchs shanked a punt out of bounds at the Salukis' 47-yard line.
The Dawgs drove to the Leathernecks' 20-yard line, but settled for a 27-yard field goal by Kyle Dougherty with a little under two minutes (1:58) remaining in the second quarter.
On WIU's ensuing possession, Barr completed a 39-yard pass to Carl Sims for a first down at the Salukis' 10-yard line.
After a holding penalty, Barr broke free for a 20-yard touchdown with nine seconds left. WIU failed to convert the PAT and headed into the locker room with a 9-3 advantage.
Hill completed 22-of-29 passes en route to becoming only the fifth quarterback in school history to throw for over 4,000 career yards. He ranks fifth all-time with 4,161 passing yards. Hill (2,152) also surpassed 2,000 passing yards in nine games this season.
"We threw the ball a lot more on that last drive," said Hill. "We just stayed calm and didn't get rattled. I think that's why we were able to win the game."
For WIU, Donaldson became the first running back to rush for over 100 yards against SIU this year. He carried the ball 26 times for 137 yards, including 108 in the first half.
Barr also played well for the Leathernecks, completing 16-of-25 passes for 208 yards. He ran for 57 yards and scored WIU's only touchdown as well.
Defensively, Chauncey Mixon (14), Moe (13), Brandin Jordan (11) and Brandon Williams (10) all had double-digit tackles for SIU. Cloud followed close behind with nine takedowns, including a game-high four for loss.
"I was proud of our defense," said Kill. "We had guys step up and make some big plays. We knew it was going to be a war today."
SIU hosts Illinois State in its final home game of the season on Nov. 10.