Strong Redbird defense leads to victory over Salukis


Nicole Tillberg | @nicoletillberg

Saluki quarterback Karé Lyles protects the ball on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019 at SIU Arena during the Salukis’ 7-21 loss against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks.

By Zach Kramer, Sports Reporter

The Southern Illinois Salukis fell 21-7 to the Illinois State Redbirds, thanks to nine sacks by the Redbirds’ defense on junior quarterback Kare Lyles. 

Prior to this matchup, the Redbirds (4-2, 1-1 MVFC) had won four of the last five against the Salukis including a 51-3 victory in 2018 which was the largest margin of victory in the 81-year history between the two teams. 

The Salukis’ (2-4,0-2) last win in this series was 42-7 here in Carbondale in 2017. 


On the first drive by Illinois State, junior quarterback Brady Davis threw a 34-yard pass to senior wide receiver Braxton Haley to set up a first and goal at the two yard line. 

On the next play, senior running back James Robinson scored a touchdown to put the first points on the board and gave the Redbirds a 7-0 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the first quarter.

On the next play, senior Avante Cox had a big kick return that put the Salukis in good field position but a 15-yard holding penalty negated the return and Southern was then forced to punt after the ISU defense forced a three and out. 

The Salukis were in position to score a touchdown on the 16-yard line but Lyles got sacked by senior linebacker Ty Deforest to putting SIU in field goal position.

When Southern was lining up for a field goal they tried a fake, with freshman quarterback Nic Baker in but they were unsuccessful as the pass hit the defender of the Redbirds in the back.

A 12 play 70-yard drive ended when Davis threw for his second touchdown of the game throwing a two yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Austin Nagel extending the lead to 14-0  over the Salukis. 

On the Salukis’ next drive they were in position to score with a 35 yard pass from Lyles to junior wide receiver Landon Lenoir to get them to the 20-yard line but on the next play Lyles pass got intercepted by sophomore linebacker Brandon Simen with 23 seconds left until halftime. 


The Redbirds ran the clock out until halftime as they went into halftime with a 14-0 lead. 

On the first play of the second half, Lenoir fumbled the football on the kickoff to give Illinois State field position at the Saluki 27 yard line. 

The Saluki defense was able to hold the Redbirds to a field goal attempt which senior kicker Sam Fenlason missed keeping the score at 14-0.

On the very next play, freshman running back Romeir Elliot had a 74 yard rushing  touchdown to make the score 14-7 Redbirds with just under 13 minutes left in the third quarter. 

With Illinois State up one touchdown in the third quarter Southern attempted an onside kick which was fumbled and recovered by freshman safety Justin Strong for the Salukis.

The Salukis were unable to convert the short field into any points as the Redbirds held the Dawgs.

Lenoir said that the onside kick was a missed opportunity  that would have helped SIU get back into the game

“Things didn’t go our way on some of the plays but we’ve gotta keep going forward and don’t let that set us back even more,” Lenoir said. “You can’t really do well on those types of plays even though it happened.” 

A 23 yard pass from Davis to the Saluki 29-yard line put the Redbirds in good field position which allowed them to tack on another touchdown on a quarterback sneak to giving them another 14 point lead with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. 

The Salukis took a chance and went for it on a fourth and 14 with just under eight minutes left.  Lyles was able to keep the drive alive after spinning away from a sack and hitting Cox for 14 yards. 

They took another chance on a fourth down and 25 and Lyles got sacked for the seventh of the game as they were unable to score any points as the Dawgs trailed 21-7 with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter.

“It was a disappointing loss. I don’t have much other to say about it then that. To come out and not play better than that,” Hill said. “ It felt like we had our chances all the way into the fourth quarter and just couldn’t get over the hump just can’t get going right now on offense.” 

The Salukis will face Youngstown State next Saturday for the homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Saluki Stadium.

Zach Kramer, Sports Reporter, can be reached at [email protected].

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