Nov. 24, 2007
By Jeff Honza
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Nick Hill threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 32 yards and one TD to lead No. 4 Southern Illinois University (11-1) to a commanding 30-11 win over No. 17 Eastern Illinois University (8-4) earlier today in the first round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship.
SIU, which completed a sweep of the Illinois directional schools (also beat Northern Illinois and Western Illinois this year), advances to the quarterfinals for the third year in a row.
The Salukis host Massachusetts on Saturday, Dec. 1, as part of the ESPN Gameplan television package. Start time is to be announced.
SIU, competing in the postseason for the fifth consecutive year, scored the first 20 points of the game and never looked back.
Turnovers doomed EIU from the start.
"We made some mistakes and it hurt," said Panther defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni. "Whoever executed was going to win this game and SIU made all the plays it needed to to win the game."
Bellantoni stepped in for EIU head coach Bob Spoo, who was unable to coach due to health reasons.
First-team all-Ohio Valley Conference running back Ademola Adeniji fumbled on the Panthers' first play from scrimmage, giving SIU the ball at the EIU 21-yardline.
On the ensuing play, Hill hit Alan Turner for a 21-yard touchdown, and just like that, SIU led, 7-0.
The Salukis proceeded to put points on the board during three of their next four possessions prior to the half.
Hill threw his second touchdown pass, this time an 8-yard strike to tight end Ryan Kernes with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Kyle Dougherty kicked back-to-back field goals of 18 and 21 yards, respectively, to boost the Saluki lead to 20-0 at the break.
EIU got on the board for the first time when Tyler Wilke booted a 42-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
SIU then countered with a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Hill just five seconds into the fourth period.
The last of the Panther scoring came when Bodie Reeder hit DuQuoin native Jordan Campanella for a 7-yard touchdown. EIU was successful on the two-point conversion, narrowing SIU's lead to 27-11.
Dougherty's 26-yard field goal put the game on ice with 2:24 left to play.
Dougerty has now made 40 consecutive PATs and nine field goals in a row.
Hill polished off yet another fine performance, completing 24-of-30 passes. He also carried the ball 13 times for 32 yards. He threw for 200 or more yards in a game for the eighth time this season. In addition, Hill has piled up a total of 183 yards in his last three games.
SIU's explosive offense also sported five different wide receivers with at least two catches. Turner led all receivers with six catches for 75 yards.
SIU limited EIU to only 66 rushing yards on the day.
"The takeways were huge and we did a great job defensively, " said Saluki head coach Jerry Kill. "We also did a good job of taking care of the ball. You have to play great defense this time of year."