Salukis commits five turnovers in loss to North Dakota

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Jared Treece | @bisalo

SIU running back Javon Williams Jr., left, leaps into the air to bump fellow teammate Romeir Elliott after Williams 40-yard touchdown run in the Salukis’ 20-17 win over the Redhawks on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020 at Saluki stadium in Carbondale, Ill.

The SIU football team (1-1,0-1 MVC) fell to the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (1-0,1-0 MVC) in a 44-21 loss on Saturday after struggling to find an offensive rhythm. 

Salukis head coach Nick Hill spoke about the loss and said the team needs to be prepared next week.

“You’ve got to show back up tomorrow, as much as it doesn’t feel good. It’s a long trip home and it’s been a long 400 and something days, but we’ve got to show back up and we’ve got to get to work and get better and be prepared to play North Dakota State,” Hill said.

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The Salukis were able to strike early in the game to take a 7-0 lead, but turnovers in both halves led to North Dakota amassing a large lead in the third quarter that the Salukis couldn’t overcome. 

North Dakota forced five turnovers and gave up zero to the Salukis. 

Starting senior quarterback for Southern, Kare Lyles, sustained an injury to his ribs in the second quarter and could not return to the game; sophomore Nic Baker replaced Lyles for the remainder of play.

Prior to his injury, Lyles went 12-14 with 74 yards and a touchdown. He lost two fumbles including a scoop and score touchdown for the Hawks.

Baker went 12-23 for 153 yards with two interceptions after he replaced Lyles. 

It was the running game that helped North Dakota secure the win as they combined for 229 yards, mainly from running backs redshirt sophomore Otis Weah and sophomore Luke Skokna. Both ran for over 50 yards and recorded a touchdown. 

On the first drive of the game, SIU struck quickly on a play that was capped off by a Lyles touchdown pass to sophomore running back Justin Strong. Senior kicker Nico Gualdoni finished it off with an extra point to get the Salukis a 7-0 lead.

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After punts from both teams, the Salukis had a chance to go up two possessions in the first quarter but fumbled on a carry from sophomore running back Javon Williams Jr. 

The Fighting Hawks then responded with a touchdown in just two plays, finishing off the drive with a pass from Schuster to senior fullback Brett Finke to tie it up 7-7 with four minutes left in the quarter. 

Both teams struggled to get into the end zone but a 27 yard field goal for North Dakota senior kicker Adam Stage gave the Hawks a 10-7 advantage. 

On the next Saluki possession the team committed another turnover where Lyles took a hard hit and fumbled the ball. This  led to a scoop and score for North Dakota.

Stage missed the PAT to keep the score at 16-10 with 1:39 left in the first half. 

After taking over for Lyles, Baker got off to a quick start driving the Salukis down for a touchdown in only 70 seconds, this time the touchdown was scored by sophomore running back Romero Elliot on a one-yard carry. 

The Fighting Hawks led 16-14 at the half. 

In the third quarter the Fighting Hawks scored on their first three possessions. These touchdowns extended the North Dakota lead to 37-14.

North Dakota then extended the lead to 44-14 in the early fourth quarter on a one yard rushing touchdown by Skokna. 

The Salukis responded with a one-yard touchdown run from Williams Jr.

Southern would only obtain one more possession for the rest of the game, on which they were unable to score. The Hawks ran out the clock to end the game at 44-21. 

SIU will take the field at home next week on Feb. 27 where they will take on the defending three-time national champions the North Dakota State University Bison. Kick-off at Saluki Stadium is set for 12 p.m.

Sports reporter Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @RyanscottDE. 

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