UIW Cardinals fly past Salukis in season opener


Isabel Miller | @Isabelmmedia

Saluki senior Nigel Kilby suffers an injury after a play on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 at SIU Arena during the Salukis’ 28-14 win against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks.

The Salukis arrived in San Antonio preparing for a scheduled 6 p.m. kickoff. Instead, it took until 8:42 for the first quarter to finally end. By then, SIU already seemed well out of the game.

At around 8:20 p.m., the lights at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium went out. The kickoff had already been delayed more than 100 minutes due to lightning, and play would be suspended another twenty minutes due to the outage.

While the game would not quite creep into Sunday morning, it came close. The final whistle blew at 11:28 p.m., but the 64-29 Cardinals win was all but decided long before then.


Even as the lights were off, the scoreboard remained lit. The Salukis could do little except try to stay loose and glance up at the sign that displayed their disastrous performance to that point.

Seconds before the outage, Incarnate Word quarterback Lindsey Scott had somersaulted into the end zone for a touchdown to push his team’s lead to 22-0. As Scott celebrated with his teammates, darkness fell upon the stadium. The fans in the Cardinals student section took the opportunity to use their cell phone lights to continue their celebration of what had been a near-perfect first quarter for Incarnate Word.

Incarnate Word’s offense was defined by its explosive plays. Twice did Scott find receiver Taylor Grimes behind the Saluki defense, as Grimes finished his quarter with two receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Scott then found Darion Chafin for 79 yards and another long passing touchdown in the second quarter.

The Cardinals didn’t need good field position with that gameplan, but they still received a few breaks from SIU’s special teams. Two punt attempts sent bad snaps sailing over the head of the 6’4 freshman punter Nathan Torney; the first went out the back of the end zone for a safety, while the other gave Incarnate Word a fresh set of downs at the SIU 20-yard-line that would lead to Scott’s rushing touchdown.

After the lights-out delay, the Salukis began to find some rhythm in their offense. Leading the charge was junior running back Ro Elliott, who had racked up 103 yards on the ground by halftime. In total, the Salukis had 128 rushing yards in the second quarter, and Elliott and Justin Strong each found the end zone to cut into the deficit.

Down by two scores, SIU had a chance to make strides in its comeback efforts. Across two drives at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half, the Salukis ran 30 straight offensive plays. However, they only ended up with six points from two field goals from Herrin native Jake Baumgarte, and still trailed by 10 despite possessing the ball for 12 consecutive in-game minutes.

Incarnate Word returned to its explosive form in the second half, taking only two minutes to add another touchdown to its lead. A pick-six on the next Salukis drive virtually sealed the deal on the Cardinals opening week win.


Some positives for the Salukis included Elliott’s big day, and Baumgarte cementing his placekicker role with a perfect 3-for-3 night. Perhaps the most impressive of the bunch was Avante Cox, who defied expectations by playing on Saturday despite recently having surgery on his broken hand. Cox had six catches for 57 yards and showed little sign of injury.

But beyond that, there wasn’t much good to take away from this game. Simply put, it was the last thing Southern Illinois needed to begin the season.

Scott finished the night with 391 passing yards and six touchdown passes. Each of those passes went for more than 30 yards, as Cardinal receivers frequently found themselves behind the Saluki secondary.

UIW’s 451 receiving yards and 64 points, were the 7th most SIU has given up in each statistic in school history and the most against FCS teams since 2016 and 2018 respectively.

On the other side, Salukis starter Nic Baker threw 19-31 for 175 yards. He had one interception, the aforementioned pick-six. Earlier in the game, Baker threw what seemed to be an interception in the red zone, but he was ruled down in what would be one of five sacks he took on the night.

Southern Illinois held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, doubling its opponent in time of possession. However, when Incarnate Word was regularly stringing together scoring drives of two minutes or less, that advantage became meaningless in practice.

Incarnate Word is the reigning champion of the Southland Conference and entered this season ranked No. 14 in the FCS, so it was not surprising for them to perform well in their home opener. However, with Southern Illinois expecting big things out of the 2022 season, and being ranked No. 9 in the country, this was far from a predictable result.

The Salukis will look to get right in their home opener on Sept. 10, hosting SEMO in the “War For The Wheel.” Kickoff at Saluki Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrandynWilcoxen. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.