Dune Smith (8) jumps to high five Mark Davis Jr. (17) after taking down South Dakota State on defense Oct. 21, 2023 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Illinois.
Dune Smith (8) jumps to high five Mark Davis Jr. (17) after taking down South Dakota State on defense Oct. 21, 2023 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Illinois.
Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto

Southern shuts out Western in biggest Saluki win since 2010

Saluki football had no troubles bouncing back from a close loss last week, as it dominated Western Illinois (0-8, 0-5 in MVFC) on the road with a 63-0 shutout win.

Southern Illinois improved to a record of 6-2, 3-2 in conference play. Saturday’s win clinched a .500 season or better for the fourth time in the last five years.

Running back Lashaun Lester got the Salukis on the board with a 64-yard touchdown run on the team’s second drive. It matched similar tone-setting touchdowns from teammates Ro Elliott and Justin Strong earlier this year, having scored on long runs to open up the Missouri State and Murray State wins respectively.


Lester would go on to score three times on Saturday, turning in a career-high 139-yard performance on just 10 carries. His contributions spearheaded another big day for the Saluki rushing attack, which tallied 228 yards on the ground.

Quarterback Nic Baker tossed three touchdowns of his own, moving closer to Joel Sambursky’s career record. He finished 11-for-17 with 186 yards on the day after only playing the first half. Backup quarterback Hunter Simmons took over after halftime, and tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Allen Middleton for both his and Middleton’s first career scores.

Southern’s defense added to its terrific campaign with a shutout on Saturday, the first SIU has pitched against a Division I opponent since 2012. It also added to the scoring output with a fumble returned by Desman Hearns for a touchdown.

Saturday’s win is the largest ever against a conference opponent, and third-largest against a Division I opponent behind a pair of 66-point victories against Bradley and Xavier in 1970 and 1973. It is tied for the ninth-largest overall margin of victory in program history, most recently tying the 2010 home opener against Quincy that marked the team’s debut at the newly-built Saluki Stadium.

The No. 11/12 Salukis will return home next Saturday, hosting the South Dakota Coyotes (6-2, 4-1 in MVFC) on Nov. 4 for the annual Blackout Cancer game in a matchup with massive playoff implications.

The Coyotes entered Saturday ranked No. 4 in both the Stats Perform Top 25 and the FCS playoff committee rankings. However, South Dakota lost to in-state rival South Dakota State 37-3, just one week after the Salukis themselves took the Jackrabbits to their limit in a 17-10 loss.

More information on the Blackout Cancer game, including how you can purchase $5 tickets, can be found on the SIU Athletics website.


Sports editor 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.


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