Salukis leave crick in Leathernecks

By Terrance Peacock

The SIU football team won its third straight conference road game to stay in the playoff hunt, thanks to a breakout performance by redshirt quarterback Ryan West.

West finished with 147 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Senior linebacker Bryan Presume chipped in with 11 tackles to lead the Salukis (5-4, 3-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) to a 34-28 victory against Western Illinois University (3-7, 1-5 MVFC).

The Salukis led the entire way, but held on to win late in the game, as the resilient Leathernecks never backed down.

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Coach Dale Lennon said this was the game he expected.

“(WIU) has come back against every other team they’ve played so far,” Lennon said. “We knew it would be a challenge. We just had a tough time putting them away, and they kept battling.”

The Salukis jumped out to an early lead after West threw two touchdown passes in the first 10 minutes of the game to give SIU an early 14-0 advantage.

West said the two early scores took away any nervousness he may have had making his first career start and boosted everyone’s confidence.

“It was huge, not only for me but for the team as well,” West said. “Going up two scores early, I think that takes a lot of the pressure off the rest of the guys as well.”

The play of the game came with the Salukis leading 20-14 with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Presume blocked the Leatherneck’s 32-yard field goal attempt. Sophomore safety D.J. Cameron batted the ball forward in an attempt to recover the loose ball before Presume finally scooped it up and returned it for a score to put the Salukis up 27-14.

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“I got under the tight end and was able to get to the kicker and just put my hands out and make the block,” Presume said. “I was waiting on D.J. to actually scoop the ball. It took him too long, so I did it for him.”

Although the Salukis came away with the win, the Leathernecks outgained SIU by nearly 200 yards, and totaled 460 yards of total offense. WIU was lead by junior running back J.C. Baker who ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts, including 110 yards in the second half.

Lennon said Baker reminded him of a former Saluki back, as the Salukis had a difficult time containing him.

“He really reminds me a lot of Larry Warner,” Lennon said. “He’s just a tough guy to tackle. A lot of his plays, we were there at the point of attack, and where he makes you pay is that he bounces it. You tell your guys don’t over pursue, and then once you do that, you give up seems in the middle. He’s just a difficult back to defend.”

Overall, Lennon said he was pleased with his team’s effort to pull out another road victory.

“I’m proud of our guys how we hung together,” Lennon said. “There were a lot of momentum swings throughout the course of the game. There are definitely things we need to get better at, but at the same time, when we needed to make plays, we did make plays, and we found a way to win the ballgame.”

The Salukis will return home Saturday as they face Missouri State University at Saluki Stadium and try to stay in the playoff picture.

Terrance Peacock can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 256.

 

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