Practice makes better as SIU powers past Youngstown State

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

The old adage is practice makes you perfect, and junior quarterback Kare Lyles said the practices on Tuesday and Wednesday were the best they had this season.

“I think you’re going to hear coach Hill allude to this,” Lyles said. “I think this was our best Tuesday and Wednesday practices that we have had, we came out with the mindset that we have the ability to go on a special run here.”

The practices payed off for Southern (3-4, 1-2 MVFC) as they claimed their first conference win of the year 35-10 over Youngstown State led by a strong effort on both sides of the field.

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Freshman running back Javon Williams Jr. led the way on offense passing for a touchdown, receiving a touchdown and rushing for a touchdown.

The defense put up 10 sacks total, limiting the Penguins offense to a total of 241 yards.

After Lyles got sacked on Southern’s first possession of the game, it looked like the offense would be struggling to score again.

However, a 37-yard run by senior running back D.J. Davis got the offense started for SIU in the homecoming game against Youngstown State.

“It was great to have him and [Senior safety] Jeremy Chinn back,” Lyles said. “When you have two captains like that, that are strong men, their characters are high character guys.”

After the 37-yard run by Davis, Williams scored the first touchdown of the day on a wildcat formation to put SIU up 7-3.

“Special guys make special plays, and number 15 [Williams] is a special player,” Lyles said.

The offense had been struggling in the last two games scoring a total of 17 points across eight quarters against both South Dakota State and Illinois State.

The defense came up big in the first half of the game limiting the Penguins to 179 yards of offense and forcing four sacks, with two from junior defensive end Chucky Sullivan.

“Coming in the game, we knew they were very versatile, their o-line was pretty decent,” sophomore outside linebacker Makhel Calhoun said. “So, we just schemed it up real good, d-line really got after it this week.”

After Youngstown scored a touchdown to end the first half, they closed the gap to 28-10 against SIU.

The Penguins received the ball to start the second half, a holding penalty and a roughing the passer penalty by SIU allowed for the Youngstown drive to continue.

Chinn sacked the Penguins senior quarterback Nathan Mays on third down, and it looked as if the ball was fumbled and recovered by Chinn.

After a review by the officials, they overturned the fumble call and Youngstown decided to go for it on a fourth and 12 play where Mays overthrew his receiver.

On the Youngstown State 41 yard line, SIU had a fourth down with two yards to get the first down, and head coach Nick Hill elected to freshman running back Williams for the play.

Williams rewarded Hill’s decision as the Penguins were expecting him to run and a 41-yard pass to sophomore tight end Jacob Garrett tacked on another touchdown for the Salukis. They led 35-10 after the extra point kick by freshman kicker Griffin Cerra.

“Coming into this game, we kind of knew we were going to be a full team,” Calhoun said. “This Saturday, we just came together and played well.”

The Saluki defense limited YSU to just 112 yards in the second half, picking up six more sacks for a record for this season’s defense.

“We were tired of hearing ‘we’re close, we could win these games,’” Hill said. “It kind of all came together today, and we showed what we could do.”

SIU will travel to South Dakota, next week. Kickoff in Vermillion is set for 4 p.m..

Sports Editor Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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