Southern rewind: SIU rally falls one yard short in Missouri Valley loss to UNI

SIU wide receiver Jay Jones comes up one short of the end zone Saturday in a 37-36 loss to Northern Iowa. (Photo by

By Barry Bottino

Southern Illinois continued its streaky season Saturday in dramatic fashion.

The Salukis, who opened the season 0-2 before winning five straight, saw their FCS playoff chances take a hit with a 37-36 home loss to Northern Iowa when a Hail Mary pass from quarterback Nic Baker to wide receiver Jay Jones connected one yard shy of the end zone on the game’s final play.

SIU (5-4 overall, 4-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) has lost its past two games by a total of four points.

“It’s mega-disappointing,” SIU fullback Jacob Garrett said. “We’ve had two games come down to the wire like that at home. It just stinks.”

After falling behind 21-10 in the second quarter, Southern rallied to take a 36-31 lead on Avante Cox’s 27-yard touchdown catch at the 11:18 mark in the fourth quarter. A little more than 5 minutes later, UNI quarterback Theo Day threw his fifth touchdown of the day – a 5-yard pass to Desmond Hutson – to help the Panthers (5-4, 4-2) take a 37-36 advantage.

Southern had two chances late, but kicker Jake Baumgarte missed a 41-yard field goal wide right with 47 seconds to go. After the Salukis’ defense forced a three-and-out, SIU took over with 29 seconds left and advanced the ball to the UNI 43-yard line.

Baker’s deep ball was collected by Jones, who was ruled down at the 1, halting SIU’s chance at a victory.

“We fought our tail off,” said Baker, who was 34-for-48 passing for 485 yards and three TDs. “It’s not on any one person. There’s a lot of stuff we could’ve done better individually.”

SIU’s run game sputtered on the day, gaining only 55 yards on 22 carries, a 2.5-yard average.

Game changers

1:20, 2nd quarter: UNI’s Day threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Sam Schnee, the fourth consecutive TD drive to start the game for UNI.

11:18, 4th quarter: Cox’s 27-yard TD catch gave SIU its first lead since going ahead 3-0 in the first quarter.

5:55, 4th quarter: Day threw his fifth TD and 27 completion – among 32 attempts – to put UNI ahead for good.

What it means

The Salukis lost their second home game in a row, damaging their once-promising FCS playoff hopes. They are now tied with UNI for third place in the MVFC standings.

Top Dawgs

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

Baker: The SIU quarterback threw for a season-best 485 yards.

Avante Cox: The senior wideout caught a pair of touchdowns among his five receptions and piled up 102 yards.

P.J. Jules, S: Jules had a team-high nine tackles and two pass breakups.

What’s next?

Southern has a bye this week before a Nov. 12 home game against defending national champion North Dakota State.

One response to “Southern rewind: SIU rally falls one yard short in Missouri Valley loss to UNI”

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