Southern Illinois defeats Illinois State at Home after Major Second Half Comeback

By Cole Daily, Staff Reporter

Southern Illinois (3-1,1-0 MVFC) defeated the Illinois State Redbirds (2-2, 0-1 MVFC) 35-17.

Both teams struggled to start the game, with SIU and ISU taking turns going three and out drive after drive. At the end of the first quarter, both teams had yet to score.

The first score of the game came at 13:35 in the second quarter, with ISU’s junior kicker Aidan Bresnahan hitting a field goal.

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The Redbirds defense was suffocating, and gave Salukis their first, first down at 11:08 in the second quarter. Freshman wide receiver Isaiah Hartrup said it was hard for the Salukis to get anything going offensively in the first half.

“That’s just the game of football. Not everything is going to go your way, and Coach preached to us that no matter what adversity hits us, we’re going to be in it together,” Hartrup said.

Illinois State ran it in for the first touchdown of the game with 1:17 left in the half. This was a run up the middle by ISU freshman running back Pha’leak Brown.

SIU’s offense continued to struggle through the second quarter, with sophomore quarterback Nic Baker throwing his first interception with 41 seconds left in the first half. The pass was intercepted by ISU’s junior linebacker Shanon Reid.

The score at the end of the first half became 10-0, Redbirds in the lead.

Illinois State continued to put the pressure on after the break, scoring a touchdown on their first drive since halftime. The touchdown by freshman quarterback Jackson Waring made it 17-0.

However, the tide started to turn for the Salukis.

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Southern Illinois made their first score of a game at 9:16 left in the third quarter. The touchdown was scored by senior wide receiver Landon Lenoir after a pass by Baker at the seven-yard line.

SIU started their comeback midway through the third quarter, after ISU failed to convert a 4th and goal opportunity. SIU then drove the ball down the field and scored another touchdown to make the game 17-14.

The touchdown was scored by senior running back Donovan Spencer on a 40-yard run.

Hill said the stop on 4th and goal was an extremely important moment in the game for the Salukis.

“The 4th down stop was a big momentum shifter. We had to have that one, and our backs were against the wall but our defense played it really well,” Hill said.

SIU got the ball back from Illinois State, but Baker threw an interception over the field at 13:26 in an attempt to junior tight end Tyce Daniel.

SIU forced another three and out, then went on a run down the field. SIU gained momentum during the drive after Hartsrup made an impressive one-handed catch over the middle of the field.

SIU took their first lead of the game after Junior running back JaVon Williams ran the ball two yards for the touchdown. The score became 21-17.

SIU then followed that up with a fumble recovery, recovered by senior linebacker Anthony Knighton. Sophomore running back Justin Strong converted that to a touchdown after a 11 yard pass by Baker at 7:50 in the fourth quarter.

This touchdown gave the Salukis a 28-17 lead.

SIU scored again with 2:40 left in the final quarter. This rushing touchdown by Williams put the game out of reach, making the score 35-17.

Baker led the game with 227 passing yards and two touchdowns. SIU’s standout players on the offensive side were Williams and Lenoir, who helped Southern Illinois whenever they needed a play.

Lenoir totaled 86 yards and a touchdown, while Williams added 25 total yards and two touchdowns for the squad.

The defense was led by senior safety Qua Brown who totalled 11 tackles, including a tackle for loss.

Hill said this comeback victory will be monumental for the Salukis.

“I’m just really proud of the guys. They’ve been resilient and that was an all-around great team victory that you want to see good teams have,” Hill said.

The Salukis play their next game Saturday, October 2 against Western Illinois. The game will be played in Macomb at 3:00 pm.

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected]

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