SIU football dominates in season opener

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SIU football dominates in season opener

Junior wide receiver Jimmy Jones (20) runs onto the field Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, before SIU's home opener against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils at Saluki Stadium.  (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Junior wide receiver Jimmy Jones (20) runs onto the field Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, before SIU's home opener against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Junior wide receiver Jimmy Jones (20) runs onto the field Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, before SIU's home opener against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Junior wide receiver Jimmy Jones (20) runs onto the field Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, before SIU's home opener against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Nathan Dodd

The SIU football team started the 2017 season with a Saturday evening matchup against the Mississippi Valley State University Delta Devils that ended with a 55-3 Saluki victory.

The excitement began as the Saluki offense took the field to begin the game. On the first play from scrimmage, junior running back Daquan Isom marched Southern down the field with a 46-yard run.

“I think that played a big role in the game,” Isom said. “Everybody else probably wanted to get in and make a play too.”


Southern continued to storm down the gridiron on its opening drive. Junior starting quarterback Sam Straub completed the six play, 75-yard drive when he connected with senior fullback Hans Carmien for a 17-yard touchdown pass. The extra point from sophomore kicker Matt Sotiropoulos gave SIU a 7-0 advantage early in the contest.

Mississippi Valley State was halted on their first possession by the Saluki defense with a quick three and out.

The Delta Devils’ defense stepped up to stop the Saluki offense with a three and out of their own. However, the Saluki defensive unit looked tough once again behind a sack of the MVSU quarterback by redshirt freshman defensive lineman Anthony Knighton.

After a short punt from MVSU, the Saluki offense went back to work. Sophomore running back D.J. Davis was able to find the end zone for SIU on a 30-yard touchdown run. Sotiropoulos made good on his next extra point attempt to further the Saluki advantage to 14-0.

Sophomore safety Jeremy Chinn kept the momentum on SIU’s side when the Salukis came to the field for their next defensive stand. Chinn plowed through the Delta Devils’ offensive line on first down to bury MVSU for negative yards before intercepting a second down pass to give Southern the ball on Mississippi Valley’s 41-yard line.

With one yard keeping the Salukis from scoring a third touchdown, junior running back Jonathan Mixon waltzed into the end zone for the score. Another extra point conversion gave SIU an early 21-0 advantage.

MVSU called on freshman quarterback Christopher Fowler to take the reigns of the Delta Devils’ offense to begin their fourth drive of the game. Marching into the red zone, MVSU  threatened to jump back into the contest with a touchdown of their own.

Saluki sophomore linebacker Airan Reed and sophomore defensive tackle Blake Parzych ceased the Delta Devils attack with a sack on third down, forcing MVSU to settle for a 33-yard field goal, bringing the score to 21-3 in favor of SIU.

A 35-yard pass connection between Straub and Isom in the second play of SIU’s fifth drive of the game took the Salukis into the second quarter with another capable scoring opportunity.

SIU took advantage of their opportunity to score when Straub completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Connor Iwema. A failed extra point attempt kept the Saluki lead following the touchdown at 27-3.

Knighton’s sack of Fowler for a nine-yard loss on third down ended MVSU’s fifth drive, forcing a punt to give SIU control of the ball for the sixth time within the first 20 minutes of the game. 

Isom pushed the score to 34-3 after a one-yard touchdown run finished off the Saluki’s sixth drive of the game.

For the remainder of the second quarter both defenses held strong, until the Salukis’ D.J. Davis broke into the end zone from seven yards out one minute before the half for his second score of the contest. An extra point gave SIU a commanding 41-3 lead.

A last second blocked punt by sophomore defensive lineman Malik Haynes gave the Saluki defense a near score when Knighton returned the ball near the end zone before being brought down at the one-yard line as time expired.

Sophomore quarterback Tanner Hearn got his first taste of action for the Salukis in the third quarter. Hearn’s second pass attempt was intercepted by MVSU freshman linebacker Jared Emanuele.

The Delta Devils, under the leadership of freshman quarterback Dewayne Betts, moved into the red zone and threatened to inch their way back into the contest. Saluki redshirt freshman outside linebacker Victor Abraham stopped the MVSU drive with an interception in the end zone for a touchback.

Back on offense, SIU marched down the field to the red zone once again. The Salukis scoring attack capitalized with a touchdown reception by junior wide receiver Raphael Leonard on a seven-yard pass by Hearn to push the lead to 48-3.

The Saluki defense remained solid as freshman defensive lineman Chucky Sullivan recorded a sack and stripped MVSU’s Betts of the football. SIU was able to recover the loose ball and bring the offense back to the field.

SIU’s Hearn was able to scramble and escape a near sack and run the ball into the end zone from 26 yards out for the Salukis’ eighth touchdown of the game. Hearn’s score widened Southern’s lead over Mississippi Valley to 55-3.

Looking to score any way possible, MVSU decided to turn to an air attack in hopes of scoring its first touchdown of the game. Betts connected with junior receiver Quinn McElfresh for an 82-yard reception to put the Delta Devils back in the red zone.

After the long gain, the Saluki defense held strong in the red zone and forced MVSU to turn the football over on downs.

The Delta Devils had another strong scoring opportunity in fourth quarter, fueled by back-to-back Saluki fumbles, to move MVSU to SIU’s three-yard line. An illegal blocking penalty on first down pushed Mississippi Valley back to the 22-yard line, and the drive ended with no points after four straight incomplete passes from Betts.

SIU’s defense held strong after the mid-fourth quarter threat, allowing the Saluki offense to run time off the clock to secure a 55-3 victory.

The Saluki offense hit the ground running Saturday night, and never looked back. The passing game was led by Straub, who completed 12 of 20 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

Southern’s Isom showed off his versatility in the running and passing attack, netting 135 total yards (97 rushing and 38 receiving) and one touchdown. Backfield-mate D.J. Davis added 58 yards of his own and two TD’s.

“I’ve been waiting for a game for five weeks,” Isom said. “It felt great to finally get out there and compete.”

Salukis Iwema and Carmien combined for 96 receiving yards while both recorded their first touchdown receptions of the 2017 campaign.

On the other side of the ball, Southern’s defense proved rock solid by limiting Mississippi Valley to three third down conversions. The Delta Devils were also shut out by the Saluki defense on all three of their fourth down conversion attempts.

Sophomore safety James Ceasar and senior cornerback Craig James each recorded five tackles in the game. Knighton added four tackles of his own, including two sacks and three tackles for loss.

“I just try to be physical and play a good pass rush,” Knighton said. “We just try to compete and bring out the best from each and every one of us.”

SIU was able to force two fumbles from MVSU, one of which the Salukis recovered. The Delta Devils converted only one of four red zone scoring chances, settling for a field goal to score their only points of the game.

“You can never take winning for granted,” head coach Nick Hill said. “Any time you can get a win it feels great.”

SIU (1-0) will travel to Cape Girardeau, MO on Sept. 16 to take on Southeast Missouri State (0-2) at Houck Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Sports writer Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

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