All Dawgs: Salukis crush Dayton Flyers in home opener 55-3

Justin+Strong+runs+to+the+end+zone+for+a+12+yard+touchdown+Sept.+18%2C+2021+at+Saluki+Stadium+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.+The+Salukis+defeated+the+Dayton+Flyers+55-3+in+Saturdays+game.+

Chris Bishop | @quippedmediallc

Justin Strong runs to the end zone for a 12 yard touchdown Sept. 18, 2021 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill. The Salukis defeated the Dayton Flyers 55-3 in Saturday’s game.

By Joseph Bernard and Ryan Scott

The SIU football team (2-1) cruised to a relatively easy win Saturday Night against Dayton. The Salukis were favored by roughly 30 points to win and certainly lived up to expectations with a 55-3 final score.

The Salukis were strong in all areas throughout the night. On offense the Salukis were led by sophomore quarterback Nic Baker. Baker put up 235 passing yards with 16 completions on 21 attempts and threw three touchdown passes. Freshman quarterback Stone Norton also came in for relief during the fourth quarter to throw a touchdown pass of his own with two completions on four attempts.

The offense was extremely sound in the run game tonight as well, with a staggering 426 rushing yards and on the night. Sophomore running back Javon Williams Jr. led the running back room with 123 rushing yards on three attempts, including a 73 yard rush for a touchdown late in the first quarter to kick things off for the Salukis.

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Sophomore running back Justin Strong said he credits the offensive line for how well they were able to run the ball.

“It starts with the O-line. You got to give credit to the big boys. Opening up the holes, all week on film we said that these plays were gonna hit, that’s exactly what happened. All we have to do is go out on the field and execute and listen to the coaches,” Strong said.

Saluki wide receivers were in on the action too, with four coming up with touchdown catches. Senior Landon Lenoir, Junior Avante Cox, Junior Hunter Milligan and Senior Jerron Rollins each had a touchdown catch on the night.

The defense also did their job for the night, only allowing three points, coming up with three sacks, and creating seven tackles for loss on the night. Junior linebacker Makel Calhoun, who had four total tackles on the night with one for a loss, said gameplanning for Dayton quarterback Jack Cook helped the defense perform the way they did.

“While I was studying or watching film, we noticed that he was a real slippery quarterback, and some of our coaches even referred to him as Baker. We didn’t really know how slippery he was going to be but we did a good job of containing him in the pocket,” Calhoun said.

Saturday’s game was also the first time fans were able to come back to Saluki stadium in a full capacity. Calhoun said he was happy to see the Dawg pound back to its original form.

“It was amazing just seeing how you guys packed the pound and our fans coming on and supporting us with our first game. Due to COVID, it was limited last season, but now we saw those similar faces and the band, and we got the stands rocking, So that gave us good energy, and that made us want to just put on a show in front of you all,” Calhoun said.

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The Salukis earned the lead early in the first from senior kicker Nico Gualdoni to make it 3-0 and SIU didn’t let up for the rest of the game. By the time halftime came, SIU was already leading 38-0 and the Flyers never found a way to turn things around. Baker already had two of his touchdown passes in the second quarter, a six-yarder to Lenoir and an eight-yarder to Rollins with 12 seconds left of the half.

Dayton received their only points for the night in the third quarter from sophomore kicker Sam Webster. His field goal stopped SIU from shutting out the Flyers, but SIU still led 48-3 at this point.

The Salukis put in Freshman quarterbacks Zach Zebrowski and Hunter Simmons to get them some game experience late in the fourth quarter in relief of Norton and Baker. The Salukis finished the night very happy with the final score being a whopping 55-3.

Head Coach Nick Hill said he was excited about the win and everything that was put into it.

“Excited to win, excited about the approach our team had all week in practice coming off a disappointing loss and coming back home. I felt like our attention to detail and I felt like our leaders led and our guys played with passion and energy,” Hill said.

Sports reporter Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @Jojobernard2001

Sports editor Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @ryanscott134

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