A handful of mistakes by a feisty SIU football team determined its fate in a 44-31 loss to Memphis Saturday night.
SIU was a 25-point underdog to Memphis, who defeated a ranked UCLA team a week before. However, SIU’s quarterback Sam Staub said the Salukis weren’t intimidated.
“We both put our helmets on the same way, we all put our pads on the same way,” Straub said after the loss. “We just try to go out every time and give our all, no matter who the opponent is.”
SIU’s team, following Straub’s lead, played like it didn’t matter who Memphis had defeated.
SIU’s offense came out blazing, outgaining the Tigers 167-27 and leading them 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. It could have been worse for Memphis but for one of the Saluki mistakes.
Straub, who threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns, airmailed an interception to a Memphis defensive back, setting up a 14-yard Tiger scoring drive to make it a 7-7 tie at the 8:10 mark of the first quarter.
Mistake number two came in the third quarter. SIU led 21-17 coming out of the halftime break, but the Tigers proceeded to drive 75 yards on just four plays to take the lead for good at 24-21.
Lightning struck after SIU’s Matt Sotiropoulos pulled the Dawgs within three points (27-24 Memphis lead) with a 32-yard field goal with 30 seconds to play in the third quarter. The ensuing kickoff was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by the Tiger’s Tony Pollard, making it a two-score game.
On the whole, SIU’s defense was adequate, bending but not breaking, the third big Saluki error also came in a crucial time. This instance occurred after Straub had hit tight end Jaylin Graham with a one-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game (37-31 Memphis lead).
After the SIU kickoff, Tiger quarterback Riley Fergeson drove his team down to the Saluki six-yard line.
Earlier in the drive, SIU appeared to stop Memphis on third down, but a facemask penalty allowed to the drive to continue.
Then things got complicated. Fergeson threw a six-yard scoring pass to his wide receiver Joey Magnifico, that was called back for offensive pass interference.
However, a roughing the passer call on SIU nullified the pass interference one giving the ball back to Memphis back at the six again instead of the ball being moved to their 21 with loss of down. The Tigers took advantage of the gift by running the ball in on the very next play. Patrick Taylor did the honors for Memphis and that score made it a 13-point game (44-31).
“I was proud of our guys,” said SIU head coach Nick Hill. “But we didn’t come down here just to be proud of our effort.”
Connor Iwema had 118 yards and a score and newcomer Raphael Leonard had six catches for 70 yards. Also, the offensive line did not allow a sack of him the whole game.