Justin Strong (6) and D’Ante Cox (2) celebrate a touchdown during Southern Illinois’ win at Missouri State Saturday. (Photo by SIUSalukis.com)
By Dan Verdun
For just over a quarter, No. 17-ranked Southern Illinois appeared to be in trouble on the road at No. 20 Missouri State.
Then came the Saluki onslaught.
SIU ran off 38 unanswered points and glided to a 38-21 win Saturday in Missouri Valley Football Conference action.
After losing their first two games of the season, the Salukis have won four straight. SIU is 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the MVFC standings.
Missouri State dropped to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
“Each game is a season of its own,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said in a video posted on the SIU football Twitter account. “You have to be able to adapt and adjust to whatever the game brings you. This team has done that, and they did it today.”
SIU’s defense sacked Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley six times, including two by Richie Hagarty.
“Nobody folded, nobody started pointing fingers; we stayed calm,” said Keenan Agnew, who had a sack and a half. “No flinch in the defense, and that was probably the best part of the game.”
After giving up 96 points in the first two games of the season, Southern’s defense has only allowed 76 points during the winning streak.
“The defense continues to really be disruptive,” Hill said. “I thought (defensive coordinator Jason) Petrino had a great plan. Our defensive staff really had these guys prepared.”
14:42, 2nd quarter: Javon Williams Jr. ignited the SIU comeback by throwing a 28-yard completion to Avante Cox after taking a lateral from quarterback Nic Baker. The pass play moved the ball to the Missouri State 20-yard line.
12:11, 2nd quarter: On Missouri State’s next possession, saftey PJ Jules and tackle Dewey Greene combined on a sack. This forced the Bears to punt for the first time in the game.
12:35, 3rd quarter: Baker completed a 38-yard pass to D’Ante Cox, placing the ball on the Missouri State 1-yard line. On the next play, Williams Jr. scored. The PAT boosted the Saluki lead to 24-14.
What it means
SIU keeps pace with top-ranked North Dakota State and No. 2 South Dakota State atop the Missouri Valley standings.
Prairie State Pigskin chooses the top three Salukis players in the game:
Williams Jr., RB: The all-purpose back tallied 121 yards (45 rushing, 37 passing & 39 receiving). He scored two touchdowns on the ground.
“Javon’s a special player,” Hill said. “He can do so many good things.”
Baker, QB: The Rochester High School graduate was 21-for-30 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.
Avante Cox, WR: The Salukis’ big-play receiver had seven catches for 107 yards and a 41-yard touchdown.
The Salukis hosts rival Western Illinois in a 2 p.m. MVFC game Oct. 15 in Carbondale. It is SIU’s homecoming.