Salukis impressive season ends in second round of FCS playoffs by the hand of North Dakota State

By Cole Daily, Staff Reporter

The Southern Illinois football team (8-5; MVC 6-3) headed out on the field for the last time on Saturday, Dec. 4, as they played the MVC champion, North Dakota State Bison (11-1; MVC 7-1), in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. SIU ended its season with a 38-7 loss.

Head Coach Nick Hill knew ahead of time, the players would have a tough task ahead of them knocking off the Bison.

“Now they’re 29-1 in the playoffs on their home field and there’s a reason for that. There needed to be some things to go differently than how they went tonight,” Hill said before the game.


The Salukis received the ball to start but were unable to get anything going early. SIU was forced to punt after just seven plays.

NDSU was a different story. The Bison drove the ball down the field and the drive was capped off by a touchdown run from sophomore quarterback Cam Miller with 7:38 left in the first quarter.

After another unsuccessful drive leading to a punt for the Salukis, North Dakota State drove again, which led to a 20-yard field goal from senior kicker Jake Reinholz. North Dakota State had the lead 10-0 with 1:50 left in the first quarter.

SIU answered on the first play of the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Nic Baker threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Landon Lenoir to make the score 10-7 with 14:54 left in the half.

However, Southern Illinois fell down by 10 immediately after junior running back, TaMerik Williams ran the ball in for another Bison touchdown with 7:46 left in the second quarter.

SIU started to feel the pressure rise after yet another punt on just their fourth drive of the game. That pressure rose even higher after Miller ran the ball for his second rushing touchdown of the game with two minutes left in the half to put the Bison up 24-7.

Senior linebacker Bryce Notree said it was difficult to stop the Bison offense.


“They are very well coached and they have a great scheme that they run. They’ve been running it for years and we just failed to stop them today,” Notree said.

This would be the score as both teams headed into the tunnel for halftime. The Salukis would need a big push on both sides of the ball in the second half to come out with a win.

The Bison proceeded to score on their first drive of the second half with a 2-yard run from Williams. Not only did the Bison go up 31-7, but they ran eight minutes and 31 seconds off the clock in just one drive.

This made a comeback difficult for the Salukis with just 6:29 left in the third quarter.

NDSU’s defense was like a brick wall for Southern Illinois’ offense. The Salukis were either forced to punt or had a turnover on downs on every single drive in the fourth quarter.

“You have to give kudos to them with us only being able to score seven points the whole game,” Sophomore Quarterback Nic Baker said. “They’ve been a good defense all year and they have proved that against everybody.”

Notree tried to help spur momentum for the Salukis with an interception at 11:55 left in the fourth quarter. However, the Salukis were unable to capitalize off that turnover.

The final score of the contest came at 2:38 left in the game with a 32-yard run by backup junior quarterback Quincy Patterson. This put the Bison up 38-7. The Salukis were unable to score before the clock ran out.

The Bison will move on to the next round of the FCS playoffs to play East Tennessee State.

Baker totalled 240 yards and one touchdown to lead the offense. Sophomore linebacker Zach Burrola finished with the most tackles for the Salukis with 12, and Notree secured the only turnover of the game with his interception.

Notree said Hill told the seniors how much they have meant to the program and what they have meant to him. As for the younger players, he urged each of them to use the loss for fuel for next year.

“He talked about the change that a lot of our sixth-year seniors brought to this program,” Notree said, “Like Coach Hill says, it’s been like a 10-year battle trying to get this program back on track and he gave us a lot of praise for that.”

Hill said he is incredibly proud of the men his seniors have become, and he was even more proud that his players decided to stay fully, 100% committed to the team.

“In a time where anyone can leave, they all stayed. They saw it through and that’s what their legacy will mean to me,” Hill said.

The next time fans of the Salukis will be able to view the SIU football team will be in the spring of 2022.

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at cdaily_de

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