Football travels to No. 2 UNI on Saturday

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    Oct. 18, 2011

    By John Lock

    Complete Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader

    Game Day Quick Facts
    TELEVISION: WSIU with Darren Kinnard (play-by-play) and Nick Hill
    RADIO: Saluki Sports Network with Mike Reis (play-by-play), Gene Green and Joel Sambursky on WVZA 105.1-FM in Carbondale. Other radio affiliates in the PDF at the top of the page.
    VIDEO STREAMING: (Premium)

    Southern Illinois heads to the UNI-Dome for a matchup with the No. 2 team in the nation, Northern Iowa. Kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m....Fans can listen to the game on the Saluki Sports Network with the call of Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Reis, who will be joined by Gene Green and Joel Sambursky. Tune into WVZA 105.1 in Carbondale to hear Reis' call...Fans can watch the game on WSIU, Channel 8...The 2011 season marks the 99th year of football at Southern Illinois and the 96 season fielding a team (SIU did not have teams in 1918, 1920 and 1943 because of the World Wars)...Safety Mike McElroy became the 37th player in program history with 200 career tackles...Head coach Dale Lennon needs one win to tie Carmen Piccone for the sixth most victories in school history with 28.

    Saluki Headlines
    • The home team has won every game in the series from 1997-2010, with the lone exception being SIU's 27-20 win over No. 2 UNI in 2009.
    Steve Strother is third in the nation in kickoff return average. Strother is averaging better than 33 yards per kickoff return, which leads the MVFC by more than five yards per return.
    Jewel Hampton has three three-touchdown games after last Saturday's performance against Youngstown State.
    • Sophomore punter Austin Pucylowski has only allowed one of his last 18 punts to be returned. Ten of those punts were covered inside the 20.

    For Starters...
    Saturday's game at No. 2 Northern Iowa will be the eighth time since 2000 that SIU has played a team ranked in the nation's top two. All seven games so far have been on the road, but SIU has managed to win four of those seven. The last time SIU played a team ranked as high as the No. 2 Panthers was also the last time the Salukis traveled to the UNI-Dome. The Salukis pulled out a 27-20 win, the only road win for either team in the series since 1996. This is actually the third straight trip to the UNI-Dome in which the Panthers will be ranked No. 2 in the country. In 2007, the Salukis dropped a 30-24 decision at UNI. Seven of the last eight contests between UNI and SIU have been decided by a seven points or fewer.

    The Northern Iowa Panthers
    UNI has proved to be one of the top teams in the country this year. The Panthers were the overwhelming favorite to win the MVFC in the preseason and have backed it up so far this year. After a one-point loss to FBS opponent Iowa State, UNI has reeled off five straight wins, all by double-figures.

    The Panthers are led by senior quarterback Tirrell Rennie. The North Lauderdale, Fla., native is on the Walter Payton watch list in 2011 after becoming the first quarterback in UNI history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season last year. Rennie has started all 17 games in his career at UNI. In five games this year, he's already passed for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for more than 500. Rennie hasn't thrown an interception yet this year. The UNI defense has 14 interceptions in 2011, giving the Panthers the best interceptions for/against ratio in all of Division I football.

    Rennie is joined in the backfield by David Johnson, and the duo combine to lead a rushing attack that averages more than 200 yards per game. Johnson and Rennie both average more than 80 yards per game on the ground. The Panthers' receiving corps is balanced; four receivers have double-digit receptions, but none has more than 14. Three receivers average more than 35 yards per game through the air, and four Panthers have caught two or more touchdown passes. Jarred Herring averages 20.4 yards per reception on 14 catches and leads the team with 47.7 yards per game receiving.

    SIU vs. UNI - The Series
    SIU has used three straight wins over UNI to climb within a win of evening the all-time series. UNI leads the series 15-14 overall and 11-3 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. UNI head coach Mark Farley is 4-6 against SIU, while Saluki head coach Dale Lennon is a perfect 4-0 against UNI. Lennon is also a perfect 2-0 in the Uni-Dome, including the 2009 win at SIU and a 2006 win while Lennon was coaching at North Dakota.

    SIU won the first five games of the series, but Northern Iowa won 10 of 11 contests between 1987 and 1997. The 1997 Panther win started a trend of dominance for the home team in the series. SIU's 2009 victory over the Panthers was the only road victory for either team in the series since 1996 and SIU's first win at UNI since 1983. Last year, Chris Dieker led the Salukis to an overtime win on Homecoming. SIU jumped out to a 31-14 halftime lead that quickly evaporated with 24 unanswered Panther points in the second half. But Dieker connected with scored on a three-yard rush with just over a minute remaining to force overtime. After a seven-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Evans in the first possession of overtime, the Saluki defense forced UNI into a fourth and 18, and Rennie's lob to the end zone was knocked away to give the Salukis the win.

    Jewel Hampton: Touchdown Machine
    Jewel Hampton has been a touchdown machine in his collegiate career. In fact, Hampton opened his collegiate career with a 22-yard touchdown run on his first career carry while he was a true freshman at Iowa in 2008. On his fifth carry of the 2011 season, he pounded in his first touchdown as a Saluki. He added on two more touchdowns in the SEMO game, giving Hampton three touchdowns in his first 12 touches at SIU.

    After the loss to Ole Miss, Hampton's touches began to increase, and his yards and touchdowns increased with the touches. He scored two more touchdowns against WIU and three more last week against Youngstown State. Hampton now has five multi-touchdown games in his career; he has 17 touchdowns in 21 career games. In six games this year, Hampton has nine touchdowns, which is good for 11th in the country in scoring.

    While at Iowa, Hampton only received 20 or more carries twice, and he made the most of them. As a true freshman, Hampton set career highs with 22 carries, 114 yards and three touchdowns at Indiana. After a knee injury sidelined Hampton for the 2009 season, in which he was slated to be the starter, he carried the ball 20 times for 80 yards and another touchdown in his first action of 2010. Another knee injury in his next game ended his season and Iowa career.

    After 27 carries combined in his first two games, Hampton has gotten 20 or more carries in each of the last four. He has rushed for 455 yards and five touchdowns in the last four weeks. With five weeks to go, Hampton is already just three touchdowns shy of breaking into the top-10 list for rushing touchdowns in a season.

    Underclassmen Step Up
    A number of newcomers have stepped up for the Salukis. On defense, sophomore Terrell Wilson has been a leader of the defense in the last few games. Wilson started to step up at the end of 2010, starting the last three games of the season. He has started every game of 2011. After recording one interception in his first 12 games of his career, Wilson picked off two passes in a three game stretch earlier this season. He led the team and recorded a career high in tackles against North Dakota State with seven. A week later, Wilson picked up another seven tackles, including a tackle for loss, and leads the team in tackles with 30. Of his 30 tackles, 20 have been solo tackles, which also leads the team.

    On offense, tight end MyCole Pruitt has made himself a force in the offense. The redshirt freshman only caught four passes in his first three career games, but he has caught at least three passes in each of the last three games. Against Youngstown State, Pruitt had a breakout performance with eight catches and 124 yards receiving. Pruitt is tied with Cam Fuller for the most receptions on the team with 19. Right behind Fuller and Pruitt is another underclassmen. Sophomore John Lantz has 16 receptions and averages over 31 yards per game through the air. On the offensive line, true freshman Tanner Crum earned his first career start against Youngstown State. At quarterback, sophomore Kory Faulkner had season highs for the Salukis in completions and attempts against Youngstown State.

    Both specialists are underclassmen. Punter Austin Pucylowski was on the preseason watch list for the 2011 CFPA Punter Award. Of his last 18 kicks, Pucylowski has only allowed one to be returned. Ten of his last 18 punts have been inside the 20. Redshirt freshman kicker Jackson MacLachlan has nailed six field goals, including a game winner against Missouri State that earned him MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. MacLachlan has made 15 of 16 PATs.

    Defense Falters against the Penguins
    A week after holding down a potent North Dakota State offense, the Saluki defense had trouble slowing down the Youngstown State attack. YSU running back Jamaine Cook rushed for 179 yards on the defense, only the second time all year the defense had given up a 100-yard rusher and first time against an FCS opponent. The Guins put up 464 yards, the most SIU has given up to any opponent all year, and YSU was able to keep SIU's pass rush off quarterback Kurt Hess.

    Southern Illinois only got one sack against Youngstown State, the first time since the season opener that SIU had failed to get multiple sacks. In the two games before YSU, the Salukis had piled up eight sacks for 55 yards lost. SIU has recorded at least one sack in 23 of the last 24 games and each of the last 10 games.

    Before last week, the Saluki defense was on a roll. North Dakota State entered the game averaging better than 38 points per game, but the Saluki defense dominated the Bison for most of the game. Tbe Bison didn't record a first down until late in the third quarter and only ended up with nine total first downs--only the second time since 2006 that SIU has held an opponent to single-digit first downs. The Bison only rushed for 60 yards and were limited to 1.8 yards per rush.

    UNI quarterback Tirrell Rennie hasn't thrown an interception all year, which marks the second time in three games SIU faces a quarterback who hasn't thrown an interception. North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jenson entered the game having not thrown an interception all year, but defensive back Terrell Wilson picked off Jenson in the second half.

    Kick Returners Prove Dangerous
    Mulku Kalokoh and Steve Strother have proved dangerous kick returners for the Salukis. Against WIU, Strother returned five kicks for 136 yards, including a 45-yarder he nearly broke for a touchdown. NDSU kicked twice to Kalokoh, but after he nearly got loose on a 36-yard return, they kicked short on their final kickoff. Strother is averaging 32.5 yards per kickoff return this season, which is third in the nation. Kalokoh is averaging 27.0, which would rank second in the conference behind Strother, but he hasn't had the minimum returns per game to qualify. Youngstown State kicked deep to Strother five times. Strother had returns of 38, 39 and 56 yards before the Penguins kicked short on their final attempt. Strother was twice one man away from taking a kickoff back against YSU, but he couldn't evade the final tackler. For their effort, the entire "house" unit--the kickoff return unit--was given the team's special teams player of the week after the YSU game.

    Black Out Cancer Game Update
    The athletics department announced last week that the final day to bid on a jersey for the Black Out Cancer game will be Sunday, October 30. Bidding will end at 11:59 p.m. Fans have the opportunity to bid on a black Under Armour jersey that will be worn during the Eastern Illinois game on Nov. 12. Jerseys will be selected in rank order, with the highest bid getting the first choice of jersey. Winning bidders will be allowed to put the name of a cancer victim or survivor on the back of the jersey. The NCAA allowed Southern Illinois a one-time waiver to put different names on the back of the jerseys after senior safety Mike McElroy, who proposed the idea, personally petitioned the NCAA. After the game, the game-worn jerseys will be given to the bidders to keep. So far, SIU has raised pledges for $60,870, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to American Cancer Society. The bidding has goes up every day, and the bids have increased nearly $20,000 in the last two weeks.