Nov. 4, 2006
By Jeff Honza
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Marcus Mason rushed for 249 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown to lead No. 7 Youngstown State University (8-2, 5-1) to a thrilling 31-24 come-from-behind win over No. 12 Southern Illinois (6-3, 3-3) earlier today at Stambaugh Stadium.
SIU led by 11 points early in the third quarter, but the Penguins scored 21 second half points, including 14 in the last five minutes of the game, to hand the Salukis their third Gateway Conference loss of the season.
"We've lost a couple of tough games, but I think we're improving, and I think we're playing hard," said Saluki head coach Jerry Kill. "We're playing some very good teams. The Gateway is tougher than its ever been."
Arkee Whitlock's 23-yard touchdown run capped a 6-play, 57-yard drive to give SIU a 21-10 lead with 10:32 remaining in the third quarter.
YSU's next possession resulted in a Tom Zetts 7-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left in the third quarter after the Penguins had marched 84 yards in eight plays.
YSU tried to catch SIU off-guard on the ensuing kickoff, but Braden Jones fell on Joe Bishop's 15-yard kick, giving the Dawgs excellent field position at the 50-yard line.
Whitlock, however, was tackled for a loss of one on the next play, and as a result, the Salukis were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Craig Coffin with 13:07 left to play.
Zetts' 18-yard touchdown pass to Irizarry Louis ended a 6-play, 54-yard drive, as the Penguins brought the game to a 24-24 deadlock at the 5:01 mark.
With the momentum and crowd in its favor following the game-tying score, YSU's defense needed a big play, and it would get it when Hill's pass sailed through the hands of Phil Goforth and into the arms of Codera Jackson.
Jackson's interception gave YSU the ball at the Salukis' 30-yard line, and the Penguins were in business. Five plays later, Mason broke free for a 22-yard touchdown to give YSU a 31-24 lead with 1:33 on the clock.
SIU had one last chance, but simply ran out of time.
SIU drove to the YSU 11, where it faced a 4th-and-2. Whitlock gained six yards to give SIU a first down at the YSU 5, before the Salukis took their last timeout with 17 seconds left.
A YSU pass interference penalty followed, which put the ball the two.
On an initially designed pass play, Hill rolled left, but ran for the end zone. He was tackled shy of the goal line, as time expired.
"We did all the right things to win the game," said Kill. "We just didn't make the plays at the end to win it. We called a timeout with 17 seconds. We had four shots at it. We knew what we had to do to get four shots at it. We only got three."
SIU used a flea-flicker on its first play from scrimmage to take a 7-0 lead after electing to receive the opening kick.
Whitlock took the handoff and flipped the ball back to Hill, who found a wide open Goforth for a 52-yard completion, which later resulted in Whitlock's 5-yard touchdown, one of two first half TDs.
Today's game featured two of the Gateway's best tailbacks in Payton Watch candidates Mason and Whitlock.
Mason, who averaged 8.6 yards per carry, ran the ball 29 times for 249 yards and two touchdowns, while Whitlock had 218 yards and three touchdowns on 35 attempts.
Whitlock's 218 yards marked a career-high, as he has rushed for over 200 yards for the third time in his career. In addition, he surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the second year in a row.
"Arkee is a big-time player on a big-time stage. The bigger the stage, the better he plays," said Kill.
Hill completed 12-of-23 passes for 208 yards, marking the second time he has thrown for over 200 yards in a game.
"In dog-fights like this, it's who makes those three or four plays that ends up winning the game," stated Hill. "We're running out of games, and we really have to get these next two games to have a shot."
Defensively, SIU was led by Brandin Jordan (16), Chauncey Mixon (11), Trevor Moe (11) and Micah King (11), who each finished with more than 10 tackles. Jordan has now posted double-digit tackles in six consecutive games.
As a team, YSU rushed for 296 yards to SIU's 226. The Salukis, however, held the edge in total offense with 434 yards to the Penguins' 425.
SIU returns home for its last two games of the regular-season.The Salukis will host Northern Iowa on Nov. 11 and Southern Utah on Nov. 18.