Kory Faulkner returned from a broken finger to lead SIU to a win in the regular season finale.
Nov. 23, 2013
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Southern Illinois made its final case for a playoff berth with a 31-9 win over Indiana State in the regular-season finale on a subfreezing, windy Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. The Salukis (7-5, 5-3 MVFC) held the Sycamores (1-11, 0-8 MVFC) to 55 yards of total offense, which ties for the fourth lowest total allowed by SIU in school history.
Southern Illinois continued its road dominance and has now won eight of its last nine conference road games. The Salukis outplayed the Sycamores in the entire game, but couldn’t separate themselves on the scoreboard until the second half.
“The weather was a big factor, and it changed certain elements of the game,” SIU Coach Dale Lennon said. “If you look at the first half, it was very indicative of what weather can do. We moved the ball up and down the field, but we went into the half only up 7-3. You had to be aware of the environment and that affected the play calling.”
Senior quarterback Kory Faulkner returned from a month-long injury to spark the Saluki offense. He entered the game midway through the second quarter with SIU leading 7-3 after starter Ryan West struggled to find a rhythm in the difficult playing conditions.
“Ryan struggled and we needed something to boost the offense,” Lennon said. “Kory came in and picked up where he left off. His comfort level with the offense was good. He was able to make plays with he’s feet. He was the complete package when he came back. It was good to see.”
Despite not completing a pass until five minutes into the third quarter, Indiana State had a chance to cut the lead to a field goal midway through the third when a trick play resulted in a pick six. SIU receiver John Lantz threw a pass to Faulkner, who slipped and fell as the ball arrived. After the 98-yard return, ISU failed on a two-point conversion, which left SIU with a 14-9 lead.
“We knew (Lawshe) was going to run the ball,” SIU linebacker Carl Bivens said. “Before that they didn’t have a passing game. We just needed to attack, and we did.”
From there, the Salukis overpowered Indiana State on the ground. Malcolm Agnew scored on a 13-yard touchdown run with two minutes left in the third quarter to extend the lead to 21-9. After a Thomas Kinney field goal, Agnew punched in his second touchdown of the day, this one from four yards out, to extend the lead to 31-9 with 21 seconds left in the game.
Southern Illinois rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns in the game and controlled the ball for nearly 42 minutes of the 60-minute game.
Playing with a glove to protect the splint on his injured finger, Faulkner completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 131 yards. Fellow senior John Lantz was his favorite target. Lantz hauled in eight receptions for 99 yards.
“John is one of my best friends, and he’s my roommate,” Faulkner said. “I try to give him as many touches as I can. He’s one of the receivers who I trust a lot. I trust that he will always be in the right spot.”
The Salukis will now have to wait for the FCS playoff selections on Sunday morning to see if their season will continue next week.
“We have a chance (at postseason play) because the Missouri Valley is a strong conference,” Faulkner said. “I’m hoping this isn’t the last time I get to put on this jersey. It would mean a lot to keep going. We feel that we are one of the top teams in the country. If we get a chance to keep going, we’re going to make some noise in the playoffs.”