Daily Egyptian

Leathernecks wring Salukis in regular season finale

By Nathan Dodd

After they were eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago, the Salukis wanted to end the season on a positive note and spoil a potential playoff spot for No. 9 Western Illinois.

WIU (8-3, 5-3 MVFC) was determined to secure a trip to the playoffs and avenged its 2016 loss to SIU with a 28-14 victory on Saturday.

Western received the opening kickoff and had negative five yards of total offense before they punted the football from the 17-yard line.

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The Leathernecks’ 8-yard punt granted Southern excellent field position at the WIU 25-yard line.

WIU’s defense forced a quick fourth and one chance for the Saluki offense. With the rainy and windy conditions in Macomb, head coach Nick Hill elected an attempt to extend the drive rather than try a field goal.

Junior quarterback Matt DeSomer was stuffed immediately by the defense and gave possession back to Western.

Both teams traded punts for the remainder of the scoreless first quarter.

On the third play of the second quarter, WIU junior running back Steve McShane fumbled a handoff that was recovered by SIU sophomore defensive tackle Black Parzych.

Nothing came of the turnover and both offensive units remained quiet until Western’s final two drives of the half.

After the Leathernecks converted a  fourth and one from SIU’s 15-yard line, they struck on the next play for the game’s first score. A 14-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Sean McGuire to McShane gave Western a 7-0 advantage.

On the ensuing SIU drive, DeSomer was intercepted near midfield by senior defensive back David Griffith. Western scored on the next play via a 52-yard TD pass from McGuire to senior receiver Jaelon Acklin, who hauled in six catches for 93 yards on the day.

The touchdown to the MVFC’s leading receiver gave the Leathernecks a 14-0 lead at the half.

Southern’s misfortune continued on its first possession of the second half, as a pass went off the hands of junior receiver Darrell James. The DeSomer-thrown ball was intercepted by junior defensive back Xavier Rowe and gave Western’s offense good field position.

The Leathernecks marched 48 yards to the end zone on only five plays. The drive was capped off on a 17-yard TD rush by sophomore running back Max Norris — who led Western with 68 yards rushing — that extended the WIU lead to 21-0.

Western’s lead held at 21-0 until the eight-minute mark in the fourth quarter. WIU extended their lead to 28-0 on an 8-yard TD rush by Acklin for his second score of the day.

SIU responded with its first points on a 44-yard TD pass from DeSomer to James, who led the Salukis with three catches for 49 yards on the day.

After they forced WIU to punt, the Salukis drew closer to the Leathernecks on the next drive. SIU cut the lead to 28-14 on a 10-yard TD connection between DeSomer and junior receiver Raphael Leonard.

Despite DeSomer’s 138.1 quarterback rating and 73 yards rushing, SIU’s 209 yards of total offense was not near enough to defeat Western.

The Leathernecks used 327 offensive yards in the victory and secured a playoff berth. Their first-round opponenet will be determined on Sunday.

The 2017 campaign for SIU (4-7, 2-6 MVFC) drew to a close on Saturday. Nick Hill and the returning Salukis will look ahead to the offseason and the start of their 2018 schedule.

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

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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