Salukis jack up Jackrabbits

Salukis jack up Jackrabbits

By Terrance Peacock

After heartbreaking losses to its first two ranked opponents this season, the SIU Football Team proved it could pull out a nail-biter against a quality team Saturday in Brookings, S.D.

The Salukis (3-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley Football Conference) earned a signature win after outlasting South Dakota State (3-3, 0-2 MVFC) 27- 24 on a muddy terrain at Coughlin- Alumni Stadium.

With the Jackrabbits driving the field late in the fourth quarter and hopes of tying or taking the lead, SIU forced a stop on fourth-and-two with fewer than 90 seconds remaining to end South Dakota State’s drive and secure the victory.


Senior quarterback Kory Faulkner was elated with how the defense stepped up when it mattered most.

“The confidence for our defense right now is huge,” Faulkner said. “They were able to get a stop, and I think this could be a turning point to the rest of our season.”

The win broke a streak of three consecutive South Dakota State victories in the series, which included a 16-12 come-from-behind victory in 2012 to knock the Salukis out of playoff-contention.

With poor field conditions and temperatures in the mid-40s, both teams were committed to the run for most of the game. Despite the sloppy footing, the Salukis had no trouble running the ball and averaged nearly five yards per carry.

Coach Dale Lennon said the field conditions affected the philosophy of the Saluki offense.

“You don’t want to call plays where you’re trying to make big cuts,” Lennon said. “It’s more straight-ahead, north-south mentality. We weren’t asking the players to do something that would force them to slip and negate the play.”

The running game blossomed early as the Salukis ran right through South Dakota State’s defense on their first possession of the game en route to an 80-yard touchdown drive. All 80 yards came on the ground.


Junior running backs Malcolm Agnew and Ken Malcome combined to rush for 155 yards on 28 carries and Faulkner added two rushing scores in the win.

Lennon said the running game will continue to be a positive attribute for the Saluki offense the rest of the season.

“That’s what we’ve been looking for, and that’s what we know we have,” Lennon said. “It was good to see it as effective as it was today against a top team, and hopefully we can continue to execute it at that level.”

The game featured a momentum swing in the last minute of the first half. With the game tied at 10, the Salukis had the ball at the Jackrabbits’ 12-yard line in position to score and take a lead into halftime. However, South Dakota State sophomore linebacker Charles Elmore intercepted a Faulkner pass down the sideline intended for junior tight end MyCole Pruitt and returned it 89 yards to give SDSU a 17-10 halftime advantage.

“I definitely shouldn’t have put it there,” Faulkner said. “Being in that situation with time left on the clock, I definitely wish I would’ve thrown that away, but he made a good play on it.”

The Salukis used the mistake as motivation heading into the break.

“I think we actually rallied around that (interception) at halftime,” Lennon said. “We came out probably as focused as we’ve ever been coming out of a halftime break.”

On the fourth play of the second half, Faulkner completed a pass to senior wide receiver John Lantz who avoided a defender and turned it into a 59-yard touchdown to tie the game.

“They gave me a look that we were wanting,” Faulkner said. “That’s probably one of the best balls I’ve ever thrown in college. To get the game tied, it was like starting over at 0-0, and we had the momentum so that was big.”

Faulkner accounted for all three SIU touchdowns and finished the afternoon with 185 passing yards and one interception. The senior was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week following his performance.

After the win, Faulkner said the rest of the conference will have to be prepared to face a stiff test when the Salukis are matched up with them.

“The attitude and the confidence is there,” Faulkner said. “We’re 1-1 in the conference, and we just beat a top 10 team, and I think people are going to start realizing that they’re going to have to start taking us a little seriously.”

The road will not get any easier with back-to-back games away against No. 4 Northern Iowa and at home against No. 1 North Dakota State over the next two weeks.

“We’ll enjoy this for a little bit and then move onto Northern Iowa,” Lennon said. “With each game that we play, our confidence is getting better and better, so we’re ready for that next challenge.”

Terrance Peacock can be reached at

[email protected]

or 536-3311 ext. 256.