SIU defeats No. 14 EIU

By Tony McDaniel

Saluki football (2-0) defended its first Football Championship Subdivision ranking since 2011 with a win against Eastern Illinois University (0-2) Saturday night.

SIU entered the matchup ranked No. 25 in the nation, and defeated No. 14 EIU 38-21 at O’Brien Field in Charleston. The Salukis were led by their ground attack, and a good defensive performance in the second half.

“It’s a good feeling,” head coach Dale Lennon said. “I was proud of the guys. We kinda came together in the second half.”

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Senior running back Malcolm Agnew led the Saluki offense with 3 rushing touchdowns and 148 yards on the ground. The senior back averaged 8.2 yards per carry.

Agnew credited the SIU offensive line and running backs coach Larry Warner for his offensive explosion.

“I just feel like I’m finally healthy for the first time. I’m finally able to just be comfortable running the football like I’ve always ran the football,” Agnew said.

Junior quarterback Mark Iannotti said Agnew made his job easy during the game.

“I’m fine with handing it off when he’s getting 8 or 9 yards a pop,” he said. “That really opens up the passing game too.  We really aired it out in the second half as opposed to the first.”

The Saluki defense allowed 451 total yards, but only let up 112 yards in the second half. SIU led the game with 2 interceptions, one coming just in time on the SIU 3-yard line to stop a long EIU drive.

Senior Linebacker Tyler Williamson said Lennon made changes at halftime to help the Saluki defense adjust to Eastern’s offense.

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“It was something little in the first half that kind of caused us to break down a little bit on both sides of the ball,” he said. “I think in the second half we just put it together.”

EIU and SIU were neck and neck throughout the first half.

The Salukis scored twice, but Eastern was able to answer each score to keep the game tied 14-14.

Agnew scored both of SIU’s touchdowns in the first half. He finished the half with 11 carries for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns.

EIU drove the ball 86 yards on 11 plays in just one minute eight seconds, to score and take the lead 21-14 going into halftime.

The Salukis started the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard drive to score on a 19-yard pass from junior quarterback Mark Iannotti to senior wide receiver LaSteven McKinney to tie the game 21-21.

In the third quarter SIU held Eastern to back-to-back three and outs to stop the Panthers’ momentum.

Head coach Dale Lennon said the Salukis’ second half was as good as any he’s seen while coaching SIU.

Iannotti finished the game with 2 touchdowns and completed 73 percent of his passes, for a total of 25 completions.

Agnew added his third score of the game during a 24-yard run to take the lead 28-21 with 5:44 left in the third quarter. SIU senior kicker Thomas Kinney then grabbed three more points when he hit a 50-yd field goal with almost two minutes left in the third.

The Salukis snapped a two game losing streak to the Panthers with the victory.

The final SIU score came on a 12-yard drive after the Salukis forced a turnover. Iannotti completed a 2-yard pass to freshman fullback Hans Carmien to tally the game’s last score at 38-21. The touchdown was Carmien’s first score as a Saluki.

The Salukis will face Southeastern Missouri State University next Saturday at Saluki Stadium.

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