Angel Chevrestt | @sobrofotos
Tied at 27 with three seconds left on the clock, Missouri State sophomore kicker Jose Pizano lined up for a field goal attempt, and clearing it, sealed the win for the Bears (4-4,3-2 MVC) with no time left for Southern Illinois to find another way to score.
SIU head coach Nick Hill said after the game the Salukis (4-3,3-3 MVC) weren’t good enough on either side in the game in their 30-27 loss on the road.
“We weren’t good enough on both sides, obviously if they don’t score they don’t win. We’ve shown that we don’t have it to shut teams down right now,” Hill said.
Hill said the team was mad after the game and hasn’t been good enough the past couple of weeks. Southern dropped a 44-3 matchup against South Dakota State the week prior on March 20.
“Maybe people started feeling good about themselves with half the season to go, and maybe that’s a learning experience for me on how to treat the team. I didn’t feel like the team was unfocused but it doesn’t show it in the results,” Hill said
On the first play from scrimmage of the game, Missouri State scored on a 75-yard touchdown on a throw from senior quarterback Matt Struck to freshman running back Celdon Manning.
The Salukis responded by forcing a safety with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. Senior inside linebacker Bryce Notree was the first to get to the Bears’ senior running back Tobias Little in the endzone to make the game 7-2.
SIU took the lead on the ensuing possession when sophomore running back Javon Williams Jr. threw a 29-yard touchdown to redshirt freshman Branson Combs.
The Bears fumbled on the next drive with junior inside linebacker Bryson Strong making the recovery. The Salukis would add on even more when junior quarterback Stone Labanowitz completed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Strong to get the lead to 16-7.
Senior kicker Nico Gualdoni would add three more points on a 23-yard field goal to give SIU a 19-7 halftime lead.
The second half was scoreless until Manning ran in a two-yard touchdown for the Bears with five minutes left in the third quarter.
SIU had a 20-14 lead until Missouri State retook the lead at 21-20 with 7:13 left in the final quarter.
Southern Illinois quickly drove down the field and Labanowitz completed a touchdown pass to junior wide receiver A’vante Cox with 5:34 remaining. SIU extended the lead to seven on a two-point conversion pass reverse with Cox completing the pass to Labanowitz.
Missouri State got a fourth touchdown from Manning to even the game up at 27 with 2:42 remaining.
The Salukis then went three and out, which gave Missouri State the ball at their own 34 with under two minutes remaining.
A pass interference call got the Bears past midfield and they continued driving all the way to the 16-yard line to set up the final field goal.
Pizano put it through the uprights to give the Bears the victory over the Salukis.
SIU will now have a bye week due to Illinois State ending their football season early and will prepare to host Western Illinois on April 10.
Sports reporter Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RyanscottDE.
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