Second half seals Saluki win

Second half seals Saluki win

By Terrance Peacock


The seniors got exactly what they wished for Saturday afternoon at Saluki Stadium, along with a sliver of hope that the SIU football team can claw its way into the playoffs.

It may have been senior day, but a pair of freshmen helped propel the Salukis to a much-needed victory against Illinois State University.


The Salukis (6-5, 4-3 Missouri Valley Football Conference) used a strong second half to soar to a 24-17 victory over the Redbirds (5-6, 3-4 MVFC).

Freshman quarterback Ryan West completed 11 of 15 passes in the second half for 118 yards. Meanwhile, freshman linebacker Carl Bivens tallied an SIU season-high 13 tackles.

Despite an abysmal offensive performance in the first half, the Salukis were only down 17-10 going into halftime. Thanks to a strong running game, clutch completions from West and a stout defense, the Salukis were able to outscore Illinois State 14-0 in the second half.

Coach Dale Lennon said once halftime came, the Salukis gathered themselves and came out ready to compete.

“The guys never gave up,” Lennon said. “Halftime was good to us. We had a chance to regroup and put emphasis on where it needed to be. We felt that we spotted Illinois State 10 points (in the first half), and we were only down by seven.”

Junior running back Ken Malcome sparked the Saluki offense in the second half. Malcome carried the ball more in the second half Saturday than he had in any game this season and finished the afternoon with 58 yards on 16 carries. His two second-half touchdowns ultimately decided the outcome of the game.

The transfer from the University of Georgia said he knew what he was capable of, once the coaches called his name in the second half.


“As a player, I know who I am, I get stronger as the game progresses,” Malcome said. “Just feeding me the ball, I kept getting more comfortable. I think that was what I needed to get over the edge.”

A fumble by Malcome in the first quarter left Illinois State deep in SIU territory. The Redbirds converting that fumble into points later became motivation for Malcome.

“The fumble I had during the first half did not sit well with me,” he said. “The players on the sideline, they kept me motivated.”

The defense was able to hold ISU to a field goal, as the Redbirds were able to tie the score at 10. Lennon made it a point to get Malcome the ball early in the second half to keep his confidence high.

“The fumble really had him down,” Lennon said. “That was a point I made at halftime, I wanted to give him a touch early so he can get back into his rhythm and he produced for us.”

Malcome along with junior running back Malcolm Agnew combined for 126 yards on 28 carries.

The Saluki defense kept the team in the game as they intercepted a season-high three passes, all in the first half. In the second half, SIU’s defense held Illinois State to 100 total yards.

Lennon said the defense’s strong play in the second half allowed the offense to spend more time on the field and get in a rhythm.

“That was huge,” Lennon said. “We weren’t sitting on the sideline with five or six-minute drives against us, so our offense was able to get out there and play, and we started moving the football.”

Bivens, who had a breakout performance, said the defense picked up the intensity in the second half.

“We just realized that we needed to be more physical,” Bivens said. “In the first half we weren’t as physical as we should have been. We went into the locker room and figured it out. We came back out and handled our business.”

Lennon said Bivens, who started for the first time in his Saluki career, was pleased with his performance and will be a solid performer for the Salukis for years to come.

“We had Carl pegged as a future performer,” Lennon said. “He stepped in not even thinking that he was starting. He just played the game and he has good instincts. He’s going to be one of those players down the road that people are going to enjoy watching.”

The Salukis will close out the regular season next week on the road against Indiana State University. With a win and Youngstown State University loss, SIU would finish tied for second in the MVFC, which could leave room for the Salukis to earn an at-large bid into the playoffs.

“I told the team, ‘The dream is still alive,’” Lennon said. “That’s something you could go through and speculate how you want. Two of the three things we needed to happen in the league today worked in our favor. That’s very positive. Now we just have to handle business next week.”