The Saluki Football team won its first away MVFC game since 2014 and its second in a row (4-3 overall and 2-2 in the MVFC).
Fortunately, the game wasn’t decided on style points, otherwise neither team would have won. But it’s what your total is on the scoreboard that’s important, not how the points are scored.
“It was a sloppy game, but we found a way to win,” SIU head Coach Nick Hill said. “We didn’t come out and start well, but the bus ride home will still be enjoyable.”
What Hill was referencing were the mistakes his team made on defense and offense to allow Indiana State (0-7 record) to hand around.
In fact, in the first two minutes of the game, it looked like the Trees were not only going to hang around, but also hang a loss on the Dawgs.
State came out firing with quarterback Isaac Harker hitting Sycamore wide receiver Bob Pugh with a 61-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game.
SIU immediately responded with a Sam Straub to Darrell James 11-yard strike at the 9:42 mark of the first quarter. Harker then hit another one of his receivers for a 41-yard pass to set up the Indiana State’s second score in the first quarter.
But that basically was it for the Sycamore offense as SIU’s revived defensive unit found it’s footing and did not allow another offensive touchdown the whole game.
In fact, the Saluki defense only allowed a field goal in the third quarter after the Saluki long snapper sailed one over the SIU punter’s head and the Trees took possession on the Southern five-yard line.
It was a weird day for the Saluki offense as it had four turnovers. And one of those turnovers was a pick-six — one of the three interceptions thrown by Straub for the day. Strangely though, other than the interception, Straub had one of the best days of any Saluki quarterback in history.
Straub had 352 yards through the air, three touchdowns, and ran for 50 yards, but was also made some terrible decisions in between. SIU had the ball several times in the red zone, but were stopped by the aforementioned turnovers.
Nevertheless, SIU still dominated the stats. They had 352 passing yards to ISU’s 201, outrushed them by 97 yards (184 to 77) and crushed them in first downs (30-11).
But it was really the Dawgs’ defensive players who were the stars of the game.
Jeremy Chinn led the way with eight total tackles. Airan Reed had four total tackles and one of those was for an ISU yardage loss. However, it was SIU safety Ryan Neal who turned the game around. He had three tackles but also had two big interceptions that he returned for more than 70 yards.
The final Saluki score of the day came in the fourth quarter with 4:03 to go when Jonathan Mixon ran one in from the ISU four-yard line after another Sycamore turnover (45-24 SIU).
SIU running back Daquan Isom led the Saluki rushing attack with 73 yards, and wide receiver Darrell James had seven catches for 154 yards and a score.
Next up for SIU is another trip to South Dakota Saturday to meet the 6-1 South Dakota Coyotes at 3 p.m. That game can be viewed online at ESPN 3.