Salukis fend off Bears for four-game winning streak

By Zach Kramer, Sports Reporter

Saluki Football (6-4) won their fourth straight game thanks to a big performance from junior quarterback Kare Lyles and junior wide receiver Landon Lenoir. 

Lenoir put up a career-high nine receptions and 124 yards.

“I’m proud of our team,” Saluki head coach Nick Hill said. “I’m proud of our coaches and I’m proud of our team for coming out and executing a game plan and getting a win. Winning is tough; I say that every week and I am proud of our team continuing to learn and get better.”

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The Southern Illinois Salukis (5-4) faced off against the Missouri State Bears (1-7). 

The teams have met 40 times in their school history, with each team winning 20 games.

The Salukis were the first to put points on the board with a 14-yard touchdown less than two minutes in, giving them a 6-0 lead.

“I think that comes down to some of the workouts,” Lyles said. “Two new guys two guys I have never thrown to before Landon Lenoir and Avante Cox. I knew that they were going to be a big part of our offense and ever since January the emphasis was let’s get the timing down and everything.”

On the Bears’ next drive, the Salukis held them to a three and out thanks to a near interception by senior safety Jeremy Chinn.

On Missouri State’s next punt, freshman running back Javon Williams  Jr. fumbled on the punt return but senior cornerback Madre Harper was able to recover it for the Salukis just past midfield at the Bears’ 49-yard line.

Two plays later, Lyles hit Lenoir again for a big 39-yard play, but Lenoir fumbled the ball as he was trying to dive into the end zone and was recovered by senior safety Kam Carter at the Bears’ 4-yard line.

On the Bears’ next drive, the Salukis sacked them to give them a third down and 10 but the Bears were able to make a big third down conversion. The Salukis’ defense was able to hold the Bears to zero points again.

On the first play of the next drive for Southern Illinois, Williams carried the ball 41 yards all the way to the Bears’ 42-yard line. 

The Salukis faced a fourth down and two and Williams threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to sophomore fullback Jacob Garret, giving the Salukis a 13-0 lead with 2:52 left in the first quarter. 

The Salukis looked like they had held the Bears to another three and out but there was a facemask on a big third down and eight that gave the Bears life in the drive. But Missouri State was not able to take advantage as they got a fourth down three plays later and had to punt it again. 

At the end of the first quarter, the Salukis still had a 13-0 lead.

A big 21-yard run near the start of the second quarter by Williams gave a good field for SIU.

Two plays later, Lyles hooked up with Lenoir again for a 15-yard touchdown as the Salukis took a 20-0 lead with just under twelve minutes in the half. 

“We got a lot more to do,” Lenoir said. “I think we had a great week of preparation and getting things done so our main focus today was to come out and execute and I think we did that.”

On Missouri State’s next drive, they appeared to get a drive going, but ended up missing a 24-yard field goal.

On Southern Illinois’ next drive, Lyles threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Cox, giving the Salukis a 27-0 lead.

On the Salukis’ next drive, Gauldoni made a 24-yard field goal with no time left in the first half, giving the Salukis a 30-0 lead at halftime. 

On the first drive of the second half, Lyles was intercepted by junior linebacker Tyler Lovelace, taking it to the Saluki 22-yard line.

The Bears were able to take advantage of the short field as senior quarterback Peter Huslig threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Lorenzo Thomas, cutting the Saluki advantage to 30-7 in the third quarter. 

On the first play of the third quarter, freshman running back Romeir Elliot had a 43-yard run all the way to the Bears’ 13-yard line. On the next play, Lyles threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cox, extending the SIU lead out to 37-7.

With a 30-point lead in hand, Hill elected to put in sophomore quarterback Stone Labonowitz who suffered a shoulder injury in week three.

The Bears faced a fourth and eight from the Salukis’ 34 and were able to keep their drive alive. 

The Bears would end up scoring a touchdown at the very end of the game as Huslig threw a seven yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Jordan Murray, making it a 37-14 Salukis victory.  

The four-game winning streak is the first of such for the Salukis since 2009.

With postseason hopes still in play, Southern will travel to Western Illinois, matching up in Macomb Nov. 16. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

Sports reporter Zach Kramer can be reached at [email protected]

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