SIU defense stonewalls three goal-line surges to win in overtime on Homecoming

By Gus Bode

Despite giving up a season-high 459 yards to Missouri State, the SIU defense held tight when it mattered, stalling three threatening Bears’ drives to enable the No. 2-ranked Salukis to sneak away with a 30-23 overtime victory.

After the Bears (2-2, 0-1) failed to score a game-winning touchdown and were forced to tie the game with a field goal at the end of regulation, the Saluki defense was again backed up against the goal line for a game-deciding stand in overtime.

Michael Sparks caught an eight-yard pass and was stopped just feet from the goal line. But on the next three runs, the Salukis (3-1, 1-0) stuffed the Bears to win the Gateway Conference season opener. After the stop, the Saluki sideline erupted as coaches and players jumped atop one another in celebration.


On the afternoon, Scott Carroll torched the Salukis 344 yards passing, but for the last play, senior defensive tackle Mark Phillipp said, “We knew they were going to run the ball. We were talking about how they were a running team. We are a run-stop defense.”

Early in the game, the Salukis appeared to have the upper hand on the Bears, coming out to a 14-0 lead. The first of SIU’s two first-half scores came thanks largely to a successful fake punt on the Salukis’ opening drive.

SIU head coach Jerry Kill sent the punting unit on the field but snapped the ball to junior running back Arkee Whitlock, the up-back on the unit, who rumbled 41 yards into Bear territory.

“You just have to have the guts to call it sometimes,” Kill said. “That is not easy to do with the ball down in your own territory.”

The Bears found scores hard to come by early in the game as kicker Jon Scifres missed two of three field goal attempts in the half. Late in the second quarter, however, Carroll hit sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Nicholson for a 54-yard completion, setting up an eventual touchdown run by junior running pack P.J. Ikner.

In the second half, the Bears continued to shine on offense, outscoring the Salukis 13-9 in the half. Carroll routinely found an open receiver in the flats.

As he did, the Saluki offense became stagnant. Though the Salukis had strong performances from Whitlock and sophomore running back Craig Turner, penalties plagued the team, stalling several potential scoring drives. This has been a reoccurring theme in the 2005 season.


“Penalties killed us,” said senior quarterback Joel Sambursky. “Whenever you start a drive first-and-20, there is not a lot of great plays to get you in great position.”

He said he was glad the defense played well to make up for the lack of production on offense.

“Fourth quarter, we didn’t execute,” Sambursky said. “We had the chance to go in there and win it, and we didn’t. Fortunately our defense bailed us out.”

After seeing the offense struggle, Phillipp said he knew the defense would have to make plays to win.

“I don’t know what it is, but I think our football team loves adversity,” Phillipp said. “It’s not a good game unless it’s close.”

Reporter William Ford can be reached at [email protected]