Nov. 17, 2007
By Jeff Honza
HAMPTON, Va. - Nick Hill threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns, John Randle and Richard White each scored a pair of touchdowns, and Phil Goforth caught seven passes for a career-high 123 yards to lead No. 5 Southern Illinois (10-1) to a 45-27 win over Hampton (6-5) earlier today at Armstrong Stadium.
SIU led 21-6 at the half, before the game turned into a shootout, with the two teams scoring a combined 45 points in the second half.
The Salukis concluded the regular-season at 10-1, matching their best regular-season record. SIU also went 10-1 during the 1983 and 2003 regular-season campaigns.
It was a rather jagged start for SIU.
The Saluks were flagged seven times for a loss of 71 yards in the first half, but scored 14 points in the second quarter to fuel a 21-6 halftime lead.
After a penalty and timeout by SIU, John Randle broke free up the right hashmark for a 76-yard touchdown on the first play.
Randle's TD, which came just 24 seconds into the game, marked the longest run from scrimmage by a Saluki and second-longest by a Gateway Conference running back this season.
HU marched 83 yards on 15 plays and had a golden chance to punch the ball in the end zone when it faced a 1st-and-Goal.
The Salukis, however, denied the Pirates, who ended up settling for a 22-yard field goal by Carlo Turavani with 12:15 left in the second quarter.
Craig Turner returned a punt for 16 yards to set up SIU's next possession in excellent field position at the Pirates 29-yardline.
HU again had a 1st-and-Goal after going 59 yards on 12 plays, but SIU's defense stuffed the Pirates. The drive resulted in another 22-yard field goal by Turavani, as HU diced the lead to 14-6.
SIU took over on downs one last time before the half.
The Salukis proceeded to go 58 yards in six plays. Hill completed a pass to Justin Allen, who got by three defenders, stayed in bounds along the near sideline and ran 29 yards into the end zone to give SIU a 21-6 boost.
Then, things went haywire in the second half when HU and SIU traded points on six-straight possessions.
TJ Mitchell hooked up with Jeremy Gilchrist for a 24-yard touchdown at the 4:18 mark of the third quarter.
SIU answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Richard White that capped an 8-play, 64-yard drive with 1:23 left.
Another 24-yard touchdown pass, this time from Mitchell to Kevin Teel, followed by a two-point conversion, narrowed the Saluki lead to 28-20 early in the fourth quarter.
But, SIU reached paydirt on the ensuing possession.
Hill threaded a 36-yard pass in between two defenders to Goforth on a 3rd-and-12 to get the Dawgs deep into HU territory. Three plays later, Hill threw a 28-yard TD to Randle to give SIU a 35-20 cushion with just under 12 minutes (11:58) to play.
HU responded the next time it had the ball when an 8-play, 73-yard drive culminated in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to Derrin McPherson at the 8:41 mark.
Kyle Dougherty split the uprights from 31 yards out to extend SIU's lead to 38-27 with 5:55 remaining.
Then, the defense came up with a huge turnover which allowed the Salukis to sink the Pirates for good.
Hill broke free for a 27-yard scamper to give the Salukis a 1st-and-Goal at the HU 3. White took over from there, plunging into the end zone from three yards out to secure the 45-27 win.
"We knew that Hampton was going to be right with us in this game," said Saluki head coach Jerry Kill. "I'm happy to get out of here with a win."
Hill completed 24-of-28 passes for 282 yards and three TDs. He also rushed for 67 yards on 10 carries. Hill now ranks second all-time at SIU with 41 career passing TDs.
"Nick has had a great season and continues to make big plays every game," said Kill. "What's even more impressive is how he has been making things happen with his feet. He's a very mobile quarterback."
Randle rushed for a game-high 88 yards on eight carries to lead a Saluki rushing attack which picked up 192 yards on the day.
Receiving wise, Goforth caught five or more passes for the third game in a row. Allen followed with 58 yards on six catches.
HU had the ball nearly six minutes more than SIU and ran 74 plays to the Salukis' 61.
Mitchell completed 23-of-37 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns to pave the way for the Pirates.
SIU, which is pushing for one of the top-four seeds in this year's NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, will meet for Selection Sunday. The Selection Show will air live at 2:30 p.m., CST, on ESPNU. The team will gather at Copper Dragon in Carbondale and the event is open to the public. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.