Saluki tight end Levi Mitchell gets past Panthers defender Eric Mooney to make a catch during the Saluki’s 17-16 win at Saluki stadium on Saturday, March 13, 2021. (Angel Chevrestt | @sobrofotos)
Saluki tight end Levi Mitchell gets past Panthers defender Eric Mooney to make a catch during the Saluki’s 17-16 win at Saluki stadium on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

Angel Chevrestt | @sobrofotos

Wide Left! Missed kick gives #10 Salukis their second top five win in three weeks

March 13, 2021

With less than 20 seconds in the game with Northern Iowa trailing 17-16, the Panthers kicker, sophomore Matthew Cook, lined up for a 29-yard game-winning field goal. Cook’s kick went wide left and the Salukis celebrated as they defeated the No. 4-ranked Panthers. 

Southern Illinois football (4-1, 3-1 MVC) picked up another come from behind win, this time against the fourth ranked UNI Panthers (2-2, 2-2 MVC).

Head coach Nick Hill spoke on the win after the game.

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“I’m just extremely proud of our team. You know just everyone that’s a part of our team and program. We’re proud of our players, just fortunate to play and fortunate to be able to win a game like that,” Hill said

Sophomore quarterback Nic Baker started the game but left late in the second quarter and was replaced by junior Stone Labonowitz who helped complete the comeback after SIU trailed 13-0.

Both Labonowitz and Baker threw for 91 yards, Labonowitz threw one of the Salukis two touchdowns, that one went to senior wide receiver Jerron Rollins . Sophomore running back Javon Williams Jr. threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver A’vante Cox, which gave the Salukis their first touchdown of the game, cutting the deficit to 13-10.

Labanowitz spoke on entering the game and how he was able to help rally SIU to win. 

“I just did what I was supposed to do, coach [Hill] mentioned, postgame, in the locker room and just shouted out to the quarterback room. We’ve all just been able to just rally around each other and just make it not about ourselves, it’s a team game.,” Labanowitz said

SIU’s defense prevented multiple potential touchdowns for the Panthers, three times in the first half and one at the end of the game. 

Senior safety Qua Brown spoke on what the defense did well to force field goals in their own territory and said the team had to stack the box.

“We knew they were going to try and run and pound the ball in there, as far as hitting our gaps we did a great job,” Brown said. 

Hill also said the defense did a great job.

“I gave the game balls to Stone and [defensive coordinator, Coach Jason] Petrino. We made them earn it, we knew it was going to be a grind and going to be tough to just put up gaudy numbers against this defense,” Hill said. 

The Salukis kicked off to start the game and quickly got a stop but couldn’t capitalize as they punted it back to UNI. 

The Panthers would open the game scoring on their second drive as they drove 72 yards down the field but had to settle for a 26 yard field goal from Cook. 

SIU then drove all the way down to the Panthers’ 29 but Baker’s pass would be picked off by Panthers sophomore cornerback Omar Brown. 

UNI drove down the field and once again had to settle for a field goal by Cook to make it a 6-0 game. After an empty possession by both teams, Baker got hit and fumbled which set up a late touchdown for Northern Iowa. 

The Panthers had to work for it as they were forced to a fourth and goal from the one, but were able to pound it in on a run from redshirt junior Tyler Hoosman to give UNI a 13-0 halftime lead. 

In the third quarter the Salukis drove down to the 20 yard line and senior kicker Nico Gualdoni made the 37 yard field goal to make it a 13-3 game. 

After stopping UNI, the Salukis would get the game even closer.

Williams Jr. was able to get a 42 yard touchdown pass to A’vante Cox which made the game 13-10 with 2:22 left in the third quarter.

Northern Iowa would get a quick drive, but once again stalled with Cook making a 41-yard field goal to extend the Panthers’ lead to 16-10 at the end of three quarters. 

The Salukis opened the fourth quarter with a drive over five minutes and would see SIU take their first lead of the game. On a 3rd and goal from the three, Labanowitz was able to find Rollins in the back of the endzone, a PAT from Gualdoni made the game 17-16.

UNI would fail to score on their next possession giving SIU a chance to run out the clock. They would nearly do so but a holding call forced them to punt back to the Panthers with under two minutes remaining. 

The Panthers got a huge play on 4th and 10 from their own 24 yard line when they got a 52 yard completion to junior wide receiver Quan Hampton that put the Panthers near the Salukis endzone. 

UNI was able to run the ball all the way down to the SIU 12 before the game winning attempt went wide left.

SIU will look for another win over a ranked team when they take on South Dakota State next Saturday in Carbondale. Kick off is at 12 p.m. 

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

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