Southern recap: Late-season swoon ends Salukis’ playoff bid

Quarterback Nic Baker, shown here in the win over Northwestern, threw for a school-record 485 yards against Northern Iowa Oct. 29 at Saluki Stadium. (Photo by

Southern Illinois Salukis

Head coach: Nick Hill (SIU, 2007)

Conference: Missouri Valley

Record: 5-6 (4-4)

Biggest win: The Salukis toppled the Big Ten’s Northwestern Wildcats 31-24 in Evanston. It marked the second victory over a Big Ten school in SIU history. The first came against Indiana in 2006 when Hill was the team’s quarterback.

Most frustrating loss: Though there are as many as three other possibilities, Southern’s 37-36 loss to Northern Iowa Oct. 29 is the choice. The then No. 20-ranked Salukis had two chances in the final minute to pull out the victory, including a Hail Mary pass that fell one yard short of the goal line.

Offensive MVP: QB Nic Baker

The Rochester High School graduate completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 2,751 yards. His 238 completions led the conference.

The redshirt junior threw for 20 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He passed for a school-record 485 yards against Northern Iowa.

Baker was selected as MVFC Player of the Week three times.

Defensive MVP: DE Richie Hagarty

The sophomore topped the Salukis in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (9). He added 28 tackles and four quarterback hurries in 10 games.

Hagarty’s sack sealed SIU’s 19-14 win at rival Illinois State.

Unsung hero: WR D’Ante’ Cox

The redshirt senior capped an injury-plagued career to lead the Salukis in receiving yards (696) and yards per catch (15.13).

A former Rochester High standout like Baker, D’Ante’ tied with his twin brother Avante for the team lead with 46 catches. He hauled in three TD passes.

Parting shot: After two straight playoff appearances, the Salukis missed the postseason for the first time since 2019.

Tomorrow: Barry Bottino examines 5 burning questions facing the Salukis in 2023.

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