Salukis bring it home

By Gus Bode

Though SIU football coach Jerry Kill and several members of his staff are the only constant in SIU’s seven consecutive homecoming victories, the coach said the key to the team’s 24-17 win against Youngstown State occurred on the field, not the sidelines.

Kill, who has come out of every SIU Homecoming game victorious since the team notched its only victory of his inaugural 2001 season on Homecoming, said a combination of determination and depth were vital in helping the Salukis overcome a 10-0 first quarter deficit and multiple injuries to starters in “the toughest game I’ve coached in 24 years heat-wise.”

“It has nothing to do with coach Kill really, it has to do with the players and the work they put in,” Kill said. “I don’t catch any balls. I don’t block anybody. They do, and it’s a credit to those young people.”

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Sophomore linebacker Brandin Jordan returned to the lineup after missing the Sept. 29 victory against Indiana State with a toe injury, and came up with several key plays down the stretch – including a forced fumble out of the hands of Youngstown State quarterback Tom Zetts and a 10-yard interception return off a Zetts’ throw in the fourth quarter.

Jordan said he battled the injury throughout the game, but was determined to play through the pain in light of the quality of the opponent and the fact that several other starters – including cornerback Craig Turner and defensive tackle Andre Tillman – were sidelined with injuries through parts of the contest.

“This week I knew no matter what I had to go out there,” Jordan said.

Jordan and the defense banded together again for the most important drive of the game after junior running back Deji Karim’s fourth quarter touchdown put the Salukis up 24-17 with just more than one and a half minutes remaining in the game.

The defense kept the pressure on Zetts as he executed in a two-minute scenario, often blitzing linebackers and shuffling the secondary to keep the quarterback confused.

“We didn’t want to play prevent – that prevents you from winning sometimes,” Kill said.

Despite the defensive pressure, there was still time for Zetts and the Penguins to execute a Hail Mary pass with seven seconds remaining in the contest, but the play was thwarted when sophomore cornerback Brandon Williams batted the pass down in the end zone to seal the game.

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Kill said Williams’ play was a testament to the composure of the defense late in the game.

“What we tell our kids, which our kids do a very good job of listening, don’t go up and try to pick the ball off and get an interception, worry about stats – knock the ball down – and our youngster did a good job knocking the ball down,” Kill said.

Kill commended the defense’s ability to limit the Youngstown State running game as well. The Salukis held the Penguins to 166 yards – more than 59 fewer than their season average.

Sophomore linebacker Chauncey Mixon, who recorded a team-high 14 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss in the victory, said the defense did not know what schemes the versatile Penguin offense would execute early on, which may have led to the first quarter deficit.

“Once we caught on to what they were doing, it made it easy for us to come out and make some plays,” Mixon said.

Mixon kept the defense lively despite its early deficit, often throwing his hands into the air to get the crowd of 13,188 into it early and bumping chests with his teammates on offense and defense.

He said it is important to play with a lot of emotion because the level of energy shows in production on the field.

“You can’t be out there dead, running around like a drone,” Mixon said. “You get hyped, you get happy, you make plays and make things easy out there.”

Sean McGahan can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected]

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