SIU rewind: Salukis overpowered on wild night in Texas

Junior running back Justin Strong (6) broke away for a 55-yard touchdown. (Photo by SIUSalukis.com)

By Dan Verdun

Saturday night in Texas had a bit of everything for Southern Illinois football — with the exception of a Saluki victory to open the season.

Following a 100-minute long lightning delay, SIU (0-1) struggled from the opening kickoff. Giving up chunk plays on defense and sputtering early on offense, the Salukis quickly dug themselves into a hole from which they would never emerge.

Add in botched snaps on special teams and you had the recipe for SIU’s 64-29 loss to Incarnate Word (1-0), a Southland Conference member.

“So much of this game is built on momentum,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said afterward on SIUSalukis.com. “You have to try to steal that momentum back.”

The game, which lasted nearly four hours once it finally kicked off, featured a wide-array of bizarre plays as well as an in-game power outage following an acrobatic touchdown by the hosts.

Game changers

13:42, 1st quarter: Preseason All-America UIW receiver Taylor Grimes streaked past the SIU secondary to haul in a 66-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr.

12:21, 1st quarter: After a quick three-and-out by the Saluki offense, sophomore Ross Pedro’s long snap sailed over the head of punter Nathan Torney and out of the end zone for a safety.

7:26, 1st quarter: The Scott-to-Grimes combination again delivered a lightning bolt to SIU defense, this time connecting on the first snap of a new series. The result was a 55-yard touchdown upping the lead to 16-0.

Scott finished the game with 391 passing yards and six touchdowns. His somersault dive into the endzone also gave the Cardinals a 22-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Grimes, a Texas native who began his career at Illinois State, ended with three catches for 126 yards.

What it means

While SIU entered the game ranked ninth and UIW was rated 14th in both major FCS polls, the results proved otherwise.

“It starts with me,” Hill said. “I’m disappointed with how we came out here and performed. I think we have a better football team than that, but until we go out there and prove it, it’s all talk.”

How far the Salukis will drop and how far the Cardinals will ascend gets answered when this week’s polls are revealed.

Top Dawgs

Prairie State Pigskin chooses the top three Saluki players in the game:

Ro Elliott, RB: The junior from Indianapolis led all rushers with 103 yards on 15 carries. Elliott scored SIU’s first touchdown on a 55-yard run in the second quarter.

Nathan Torney, P: The 6-foot-4 freshman from Australia averaged 48 yards per kick, including a 60-yard boot.

Avante Cox, WR: The Rochester High School product made a surprising appearance on the field after suffering a broken hand early in fall camp. Cox led SIU with six catches for 57 yards. He also had a six-yard run.

What’s next?

The Salukis must regroup and prepare for their Sept. 10 home opener against rival Southeast Missouri. Kickoff is 6 p.m.

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