Dec. 2, 2006
By Jeff Honza
MISSOULA, Mont.-The University of Montana (12-1) held Southern Illinois (9-4) to only 129 yards of total offense en route to a 20-3 victory earlier today in the NCAA Division I Championship Quarterfinals at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
SIU played in front of a crowd of 18,883, its second-largest of the season. And, was it ever loud in the Rockies today.
"It's a very difficult environment," said Saluki head coach Jerry Kill. "You're not going to hear a snap count out there. There's no possible way. It's hard to communicate. Their fans are coached up."
SIU entered the day ranked second in the nation in scoring offense (37.08 ppg) and third in rushing offense (245.5 ypg).
But, the crowd was too much of a factor and SIU struggled to find its rhythm.
SIU punted five times, rushed for 27 yards, had one first down and went 0-for-5 on third-down conversions, but still found itself in the game at the half.
Dan Carpenter's 43-yard field goal capped a 10-play, 41-yard drive nearly seven minutes into the game to give UM a 3-0 lead.
The Grizzlies tacked on 10 more points in the second quarter.
Josh Swogger's 4-yard touchdown pass to Craig Chambers and another Carpenter field goal, this time from 38 yards out, extended UM's lead to 13-0 at intermission.
SIU moved into Grizzly territory only twice in the game, and one of those drives came early in the third quarter.
After a four-yard run by Arkee Whitlock gave the Dawgs a first down at UM's 45-yard line, back-to-back SIU penalties followed, and the Salukis started going the opposite direction.
SIU was penalized for an unsportsmanlike conduct and a false start. As a result, the Salukis were back to their own 22-yard line. The miscues proved to be a key turning point of the game.
SIU marched all the way to UM's 11-yard line on its opening drive of the fourth quarter, before Craig Coffin made a 27-yard field goal for the Salukis' only points of the game.
UM, however, answered with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Swogger to Chambers to put the finishing touches on its 20-3 win.
A swarming Grizzly defense limited SIU to only 37 passing yards and 92 rushing yards on the day.
The last time SIU was held to 129 or fewer yards of total offense was against Nicholls State on September 6, 1997. The Dawgs had 120 yards in that game.
Swogger completed 17-of-24 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Grizzlies' offense. T.B.-Fletcher also ran for 106 yards.
Whitlock was held to under 100 yards in the last game of his Saluki career. He carried the ball 21 times for 80 yards. It was the third time this season he did not rush for 100 or more yards.
"They're a team you can't make too many mistakes against," said Whitlock. "It's kinda hard to get back in the game when you have that type of crowd noise."
Defensively, SIU played well enough to win.
"Things just didn't go our way," said P. Jordan, who also played his last game in a Saluki uniform. "It's tough for us seniors, but we had a great year. I'll always be proud to be a Saluki."
SIU also had five sacks, including two by first-team all-Gateway Conference defensive end Lorenzo Wims.
SIU ends a season with nine or more wins for the fourth year in a row. The Salukis also made the postseason four-straight times, and they were eliminated in the quarterfinals their last two trips.
"We've knocked on the door four years in a row," said Kill. "We're going to work on knocking on the door a fifth time, and see if we can go a little farther. I know we'll learn a lot from this. We're all very competitive people, and we'll take this and learn from it. It will make us better."