Late lead slips away in 16-12 loss to SDSU

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    Nov. 3, 2012

    Final Stats |  Notes |  Photo Gallery 

    By Scott Gierman

    CARBONDALE, Ill. – South Dakota State stole a win from SIU, 16-12, with an improbable late touchdown drive Saturday afternoon at Saluki Stadium. The loss ended the playoff hopes of the Salukis (5-5, 4-3), who had led the Jackrabbits (7-2, 5-1) since the 4:00 mark in the first quarter.

    SDSU’s Austin Sumner engineered a 94-yard, game-winning drive that culminated with Trevor Tiefenthaler’s five-yard touchdown reception with 0:07 left on the clock. The game ended when Southern failed to return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.

    “It’s 60 minutes and you have to play from start to finish,” SIU Coach Dale Lennon said. “You have to give a lot of credit to South Dakota State for doing what they did at the end. We did everything in our power to finish them off, but they found ways to convert. That’s all to their credit. That’s the game.”

    Sumner completed 11 of his 16 pass attempts on the final drive including two conversions on fourth and long. SIU had a chance for a stop early in the drive when SDSU faced a fourth and 19 from its own 10 yard line following a bad snap. Southern flushed Sumner out of the pocket to the left sideline, but he completed a pass across the field to Tiefenthaler for a first down.

    “It was a desperation throw,” Lennon said. “He wouldn’t make that throw in a normal scrimmage setting. But because it was fourth and 19 and the game was on the line, he made the throw, and they made the conversion.” 

    Southern had struggle to run out the clock with a slim fourth quarter lead, going 0-for-5 on third down conversions in the fourth quarter to leave the door open.

    “It was definitely a team loss,” SIU receiver LaSteven McKinney said. “You can say the defense could have stopped them, but we had many chances to get points.”

    Despite the inability to assembly a fourth quarter drive, SIU gave South Dakota State a long field with which to work as Austin Pucylowski pinned three punts inside the 10 yard line in the final 7:00 of the game.

    “In the fourth quarter, we finally had the wind at our backs,” Pucylowski said. “Coach said that any punt that didn’t go into the end zone was a good punt, and our gunners did a great job this game.”

    Following one of Pucylowski’s perfectly placed punts, SIU took a 12-9 lead when Kayon Swanson and Eze Obiora sandwiched Sumner in the end zone for a sack and a safety on the first play of the drive with 6:53 left in the game.

    Southern built a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter when Austin Johnson kicked a career-long 42-yard field goal, which bounced twice on the cross bar before falling in between the uprights. From there, SDSU slowly chipped away with three field goals over the next two quarters of play to cut SIU’s lead to 10-9.

    The third field goal, a 33-yarder by Justin Syrovatka, came one play after the Jackrabbits recovered a fumble caused by Obiora.

    The Salukis contained the potent SDSU running attack, which entered the game averaging 200 yards per contest. The Dawgs held the nation’s leading rusher, Zach Zenner, to a season-low 49 yards and sacked Sumner six times for a loss of 35 yards.

    “We tried to make them as one-dimensional as possible,” Lennon said. “We had some success in doing it. I thought defensively we did a good job against the run.”

    McKinney gave SIU a 7-0 lead on its second drive of the game when he dove into the end zone on a seven-yard sweep. It was the receiver’s first career rushing touchdown. The Salukis had success with similar plays in the first half, piling up 131 rushing yards. However, SIU managed just 93 yards of total offense in the second half.

    “We defended the fly sweep (in the second half),” SDSU Coach John Stiegelmeier said. “They had all their yards running lateral, just outrunning us, but we set the edge. There were a number of guys around the ball, so that was how we adjusted.”

    Southern was looking to build its postseason resume with its third win of the season over a ranked opponent. Now the Dawgs have one game left on the schedule following a bye next week.

    “I’m glad we have a week off,” Lennon said. “It’s going to take a little while to get over this one. It’s a very heartbreaking loss just because there were so many implications with this game. Then to lose it in the fashion that we did adds a little more to the pain.”