SIU Football blows 14 point 4th quarter lead to Youngstown State; finishes below .500 for first time since 2018 season

Saluki+Jeremy+Chinn+goes+for+the+ball+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+19%2C+2019+during+the+Salukis+35-10+win+against+the+Youngstown+State+Penguins.

Isabel Miller | @Isabelmmedia

Saluki Jeremy Chinn goes for the ball on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 during the Salukis’ 35-10 win against the Youngstown State Penguins.

A season with a lot of high-highs and low-lows for SIU football has finally come to an end, one that was most definitely not in the Salukis line of sight heading into the year, as the Salukis lose on the road to Youngstown State 28-21. Three touchdowns in the fourth quarter by Youngstown State pushed them ahead with just under 40 seconds left on the clock.

Head coach Nick Hill said it was a difficult feeling to end the season on.

“Whether we got in the playoffs or not, we wanted to end (the regular season) with a win, versus the feeling we have right now, which is a tough pill to swallow,” Hill said.

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Senior quarterback Nic Baker finished completing 18/27 on his pass attempts with 320 passing yards and throwing three touchdowns in the process. However, Baker also threw three interceptions in the afternoon, marking a season high.

The Cox brothers had a nice day for themselves, grabbing two touchdowns each and accounting for 199 of the Saluki’s 312 receiving yards. D’Ante finished with 108 yards on five catches while Avante finished with 91 yards on four catches. Junior fullback Jacob Garrett snagged the other touchdown catch from Baker, finishing with three catches and 41 yards.

The run game for SIU just could not get going, finishing with just 2.58 yards per carry. Junior Javon Williams led the team with just 41 yards off 12 carries and redshirt freshman Pop Jones added 35 more yards off seven carries.

The defense did their part great for the first ¾ of the game, keeping the Penguins to just one score. The stat-sheet doesn’t tell you that though, as the Salukis finished with no sacks, no turnovers, and just one hit on the quarterback all night. They had four total tackles for losses, but it wasn’t enough to pressure the Penguins offense late in the game.

Youngstown State running back Jaleel Mclaughlin and wide receiver Oliver Bryce carved up the Saluki defense to combine for all four of the Penguins touchdowns. Mclaughlin finished with 84 rush yards off 21 attempts for two scores, including the game winner, along with 21 receiving yards off three catches. Bryce added the other two scores, including the game tying seven yard touchdown with just over a minute to play. He cruised through the secondary with 145 receiving yards off 12 catches.

The game couldn’t have started off any better for the Saluki offense, with a 70 yard touchdown pass right from the first play to Avante to take the lead for the Salukis. The defense would force a three-and-out on the next drive and SIU would repeat themselves, with a six play drive ending with a 22 yard touchdown catch by Garrett to go up two scores, in not even seven minutes of play.

The Penguins would precede this with a long 15-play nearly eight minute drive of their own to grab their first score and close out the quarter. In the second, both teams had drives stall around midfield, with no scores occurring throughout the quarter. Baker threw his first interception with just under 30 second to play in the frame, stalling a promising drive for the Salukis, but going into the locker room with a 14-7 lead.

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The third was more of the same, also with no scores throughout the frame and containing a Nic Baker interception to end another promising drive for the Salukis. Still up by a score into the fourth, the Salukis drove 66 yards in six plays, including a huge 48 yard touchdown pass to D’Ante Cox to go up two possessions with just 11 minutes to go, thinking that just might be enough.

The Penguins weren’t done yet however, as they would go down 85 yards in quick fashion to make it a one score game once more. Another SIU drive stalled on the 30 yard line to limit the Salukis to a field goal that could have helped seal the game for them, but a miss by freshman kicker Jake Baumgarte gave the Penguins the ball back with momentum down by a touchdown with just under four minutes to go.

The Penguins made sure to use time wisely, going 73 yards in just two minutes and 31 seconds of play to tie the game at 21, evaporating SIU’s two possession lead just like that. The Dawgs would have a chance to win the game with just over a minute to play, but a drive starting at their own three would halt after just three plays and only taking 20 seconds off the clock.

With just 54 seconds left, the Penguins in just three plays would score to take the 28-21 lead off a Mclaughlin rushing touchdown. The Salukis would get the ball back with one last chance effort to send it to overtime, but another Nic Baker interception would seal the deal for the Penguins, ending the Saluki’s season and slim playoff hopes.

The loss marks the Salukis fourth straight to finish the season after winning the previous five in a row, with each of those losses ending in one score affairs. SIU will now miss the playoffs after earning a spot in the previous two seasons.

Coach Nick Hill expressed his own frustration and disappointment with himself after losing a lot of one score games this season.

“As the head coach, when you lose a lot of one-score games, you gotta look at yourself first,” Hill said. “That’s really what’s on my mind — what did we not do, what could we have done better, what do I have to learn to not let this feeling happen again in the future.”

Hill boiled it all down to not playing a complete game each and every week

“We haven’t been able to play four quarters of complementary football,” Hill said. “Mistakes have hurt us a lot, at times, penalties, it proved evident there at the end of the game.”

The Salukis will now look to regroup and re-evaluate themselves as a long offseason begins for the squad.

Sports editor Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Jojobernard2001. 

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