Hill leads Salukis back to winning side

By Gus Bode

Nick Hill has silenced the critics- at least for one week.

The junior quarterback played a major role in the Salukis’ 27-17 victory over Missouri State University on Saturday, ending a two-game losing streak by the Salukis and Hill.

Hill has received much criticism lately after his play in SIU’s two consecutive losses to Illinois State University and Western Kentucky University.


Through the two-game skid, Hill only averaged 79.5 passing yards per game and threw the first two interceptions of his collegiate career.

If there was any need for panic on Saturday, Hill could not see it.

Hill said before the MSU game, a long season would give him a chance to redeem himself before the Salukis’ game against Missouri State University.

Hill broke out and garnered 222 yards of total offense in the Salukis’ win over MSU. His 165 passing yards were his second highest on the season.

He credited his performance to a well-rounded game plan and his coach’s ability to get him into a rhythm early.

“If you can get into a rhythm, it is a lot easier than just throwing the ball,” Hill said. “Sometimes it’s hard when you just throw the one (pass) every two periods, but today I was able to get into a rhythm early.”

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who served as head coach in Jerry Kill’s absence, said Hill did a better job Saturday because of his ability to run the ball when needed.


Hill, who rushes frequently, only recorded 51 total rushing yard in the two losses this season but averages 45.8 rushing yards when the Salukis win.

Hill ran for 57 yards Saturday, second only to Arkee Whitlock’s 84 rushing yards.

“I think the thing he did today is that he played well with his legs,” Claeys said. “If you are a sitting duck, it’s horrible, but today he tucked the ball and ran a couple times for us.”

None was bigger than his 43-yard option in the third quarter.

Hill read the MSU defense perfectly and ran around the right tackle for the longest play from scrimmage for either team.

Hill accounted for 79 of the 96-yard drive that ended on a four-yard touchdown run from Whitlock.

The score put the Salukis ahead, 24-10.

Earlier, Hill connected with senior tight end Braden Jones for SIU’s only passing touchdown of the game on a short out-route to the corner of the end zone with 1:02 remaining in the first half.

Jones and Hill developed a steady relationship throughout the game as they hooked up nine times for 90 yards – Jones’ highest reception total of his career.

Jones said after the game he couldn’t be more proud of the way his quarterback bounced back after a rough couple of weeks.

“The quarterback takes the brunt of it when you lose,” he said. “A lot of people were quick to get on him, but he never lost confidence, and we never lost confidence in him.”