Nov. 18, 2006
By Jeff Honza
CARBONDALE, Ill. - No. 11 Southern Illinois University's 20 seniors went out with a bang when the Salukis blanked Southern Utah, 59-0, earlier today at McAndrew Stadium.
SIU, which ended its 2006 regular-season at 8-3 overall with a huge IA win over Big Ten Conference foe Indiana, finds out its NCAA Division I Championship (formerly I-AA Playoffs) fate Sunday.
The NCAA Division I Championship selection show will be aired live on ESPNews at 12:30 p.m., CST. ESPNews is channel 207 on DirecTV and channel 142 on Dish Network.
Individually, Payton Award candidate Arkee Whitlock rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns en route to breaking a pair of school records. John Randle rushed for 130 yards and caught two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Team wise, SIU put up 425 rushing yards and 571 yards of total offense. Those 425 yards tied for seventh-most in a single-game.
Pretty impressive numbers for a team which posted convincing victories in back-to-back must-win situations.
"We've had several people step up and our kids are doing everything we ask them to do," said Saluki head coach Jerry Kill. "I'm proud of them."
Whitlock became both SIU's all-time career leader in all-purpose yardage and all-time single-season leader in rushing touchdowns.
Whitlock's 47-yard kickoff return set up SIU's first possession at midfield.Three plays later, he broke free for a 41-yard touchdown, and the onslaught was on.
Hill hit a wide open Turner in stride for a 47-yard touchdown to give SIU a 14-0 lead with 5:58 left in the first quarter. Turner has now caught a pass in 25 consecutive games.
A 21-point second quarter followed, allowing SIU to take its biggest halftime lead of the season.
Whitlock scored on runs of one and four yards and Hill hooked up with Randle for a 20-yard strike to push SIU's lead to 35-0 at intermission.
SIU was then on cruise control for the rest of the game.
Jones caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Hill, who later rushed for a 7-yard TD to up the score to 49-0 in the third quarter.
Whitlock averaged 7.7 yards a carry on 22 attempts. He carried the ball two times early in the third quarter before resting on the sidelines for the remainder of the game.
"It's definitely a great way to go out," said Whitlock. "We needed a victory and a convincing win. Everyone is getting better and guys are hungry. I think we have a good chance to make the playoffs."
Whitlock also credited the offensive line after picking up his ninth 100-yard game this season.
"I put every offensive lineman up there with me when any records are broken," he said. "They are overlooked and don't get a lot of credit. I don't think I tell them enough how much I appreciate all they do."
Randle posted the first 100-yard rushing game of his SIU career. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry on 16 attempts.
"We felt comfortable out there and executed," said Randle. "Our offense and defense is playing really well right now."
Hill threw for three touchdowns and ran for one, while Jones, Randle and Turner had one TD reception apiece.
SIU shut out its second opponent this season, marking the first time since 1985 that the Salukis have held two opponents scoreless in the same year.
Patrick Jordan, who played for the first time since his injury against Western Kentucky on Oct. 21, led the Dawgs with seven tackles and one pass breakup.
"I don't think people realize our team is peaking at the right time," said Kill. "I think some people may be giving up on us, but these kids haven't given up on themselves."
SUU (3-8) sputtered to its seventh-straight loss after being limited to 178 yards of total offense, including only 20 in the first quarter.
Game Notes: SIU put up a combined 106 points in its last two must-win games...Arkee Whitlock and John Randle are the first Saluki running backs to rush for over 100 yards in the same game since Brandon Jacobs (122) and Antoine Jackson (102) did it against Indiana State on Nov. 13, 2004...Whitlock now has 5,200 all-purpose yards in his career and 21 rushing TDs this season...the Salukis scored 30 or more points in the first half for the second game in a row...SIU has made three-straight playoff appearances, a streak that ranks second-longest in I-AA football...Braden Jones has caught a pass in 16 consecutive games...Craig Coffin scored 11 points in a game for the second time this season...SIU's 59 points are the most in a game this season.