Nov. 12, 2011
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. - On an afternoon when the Southern Illinois football team honored those who have fought cancer, the Salukis showed some fight of their own, battling back for a 45-28 victory over Eastern Illinois Saturday. The win snapped a six-game losing streak.
"We had to remind each other how to celebrate," Head Coach Dale Lennon said. "Losing is difficult and going through a stretch like we did you have to remember what it's like to win. It was a good locker room today."
SIU (3-7) scored a season-high 45 points, overcoming a 28-21 halftime deficit to score 24 unanswered second half points against EIU (2-9).
"Sooner or later it's got to break, and today I think we broke through that wall," senior safety Mike McElroy said. "Coach Lennon always talks about chipping away and we did it. We felt good the whole game, we never really felt out of it. There was a confidence that we were going to be alright and that we'd come out on top."
The Salukis wore black uniforms for the Black Out Cancer Game. Each jersey featured the name of a winning bidder on the back. The bids from the 80 jerseys totaled $89,890. School officials anticipate that total bids will push the grand total of money raised over $100,000. The event was the brainchild of McElroy.
"This has been a surreal moment," McElroy said. "Walking out there and seeing all of these jerseys with the names on the back. It's something that we dreamt about back when we started, but we didn't know where it was going to go, and to have the community support we had, it was something that I'll take forever. It's a memory that I'll always have."
Kory Faulkner and the Saluki offense took control of the game in the third quarter with an aggressive passing approach and a pair of timely interceptions. Faulkner threw for 212 of his 234 yards in the second half. He had five completions of 20 yards or more in the second half after attempting just two passes before halftime.
MyCole Pruitt's two-yard reception in the end zone gave the Salukis the lead for good, 31-28, with 10:22 left in the third quarter.
"They adjusted very well, and we didn't," EIU Head Coach Bob Spoo said. "They shut us out, they did a heck of a job defensively. We couldn't stop them on defense, and we couldn't get anything going offensively. That's the whole story, we played one half, and we couldn't complete the job."
With Southern leading, 45-28, and 7:08 left in the game, Boo Rodgers ended any thoughts of an Eastern comeback with his interception at the SIU three yard line.
"We pride ourselves as a defense on creating turnovers," McElroy said. "Obviously when we do that we create a lot of momentum for us."
The running game paced the Saluki offense early. Southern ran nine times for 141 yards and three touchdowns on its first three possessions of the game. Jewel Hampton finished the game with 110 yards on 20 carries, recording his fifth 100-yard performance of the season. Hampton and Faulkner each had a pair of rushing touchdowns.
With a 21-7 lead after the first quarter, SIU appeared to literally be running away with the game. However, with the wind at their backs, the Panthers started the second quarter with a 40-yard completion to Chris Wright. That set up the first of Jake Walker's three rushing touchdowns in the quarter.
"It was frustrating for us to just give up the number of yards that we did in the second quarter," Lennon said. "Just not playing very aggressive and not making plays that we needed to make and giving up big plays. That's what we challenged the defense with at halftime."
"We have a great group of seniors, especially on the offense," Faulkner said. "With me coming in being inexperienced, I wanted to make sure to send them out as winners."
Lennon said he would be like to see the Black Out Cancer Game return next year.
"We'll go through the same channels to see if this can be an annual event," Lennon said. "I don't think it will automatically be approved but when they see how much money has been raised for such a worthy cause hopefully we could get another exemption next year and do it again."