It was a sunny but brisk forty-six-degree day in Terre Haute when the Indiana States football team took on Southern Illinois University at Memorial Stadium this past Saturday. The Salukis would leave the with a 23-14 win in what was a very even game on both sides of the ball. After today’s game, SIU now is the leader of the all-time head-to-head matchup between the two schools, earning their 29th win compared to ISU’s 28.
SIU would start the day with the ball. ISU had a nearly perfect first defensive possession, forcing a three and out and setting the offense up at the ISU 31. The detriment of the first half for the Sycamores, penalties, would start on their first play on offense. A holding call would start their first series 10 yards back. After the punt, which would put SIU at their own thirty and a sixteen yard rush, starting running back Javon Williams Jr. (6’1, 240lbs) would take the wildcat formation snap, fake a sweep handoff, and go straight up the middle, breaking a tackle and then coasting his way into the endzone for the first points of the game. The fifty-four-yard rush would put the Salukis ahead 7-0.
The teams would then exchange punts and then exchange fumbles. With ISU recovering the fumble at the SIU forty-two, the offense would put together a five-play drive that resulted in one of Dominque Dafney’s two touchdowns of the day. This touchdown plus Jerry Nunez extra point would tie the game at seven with about fourteen minutes left until halftime.
After the Sycamore defense would force another three and out and then the offense drive slightly, SIU would force a punt. On the return, Williams Jr. would find a crease on the left side of the field and would rack up thirty-one yards, resulting in a net of five yards on the punt. Taking over on their own 44, SIU made a drive that would put them at a first and goal at the
Indiana State five-yard line. After two plays, the ball would be placed at the one, and the Salukis would attempt a QB sneak that would be stuffed. At what seemed the one-inch line, SIU decided to do the wildcat draw with Williams Jr., and he would be dropped for a loss by the ISU defense, the tackle being made by linebacker Jonas Griffith. Unfortunately, the ISU offense would do nothing with this momentum and would be forced into another three and out and would punt. Again, after this punt would only travel thirty yards, Williams Jr. would have another solid return, sixteen yards, and SIU would set up their offense on the twenty-yard line. This time on fourth and goal from the two, Williams Jr. would not be denied from the wildcat and would waltz into the endzone for his second touchdown of the day. The SIU defense would force another three and out, so the offense would have one more crack at it for points before the half.
Retaining the ball at their own forty, the first play of the possession would be a forty-eight-yard scamper by others used running back D.J. Davis that would end at the ISU twelve. After a nice back-shoulder throw, the Salukis would be set up at first and goal at the one-yard line. The Sycamore defense would come up huge yet again. First down would be an incomplete slant route, second would be a loss of a yard on a run, and on third, the Salukis would gain the yard lost back, making it fourth and goal from the one for the second time and third time within the two. After back to back timeouts by both teams, an SIU player would move early, resulting in a false start and make it a fourth and goal from the six. This made the field goal unit come on the field, and the SIU kicker would knock the chip shot through the uprights for a seventeen to seven lead with eight seconds left in the half. This would be the halftime score.
On the opening drive of the second half, ISU’s offense would stay stagnant and be forced to punt on another three and out. After the punt, SIU would start their first drive of the second half fifty-one yards away from pay dirt. They would about two-thirds of the way there, but the ISU
defense would force SIU to kick another field goal in the red zone. The thirty-six-yard field goal attempt by Gualdoni would be good and put the Salukis ahead 20-7. The ISU offense would finally put together a drive that is expected out of this team. On the sixth play of the drive, ISU would pass, and Indiana State University’s QB Wilderman would begin to scramble and eventually get out of bounds. But a late hit by an SIU defender would give ISU a big fifteen yards and a first down instead of facing a third and around eight. Four plays later, and all ran in the heavily used wildcat formation, Dafney would get his second touchdown of the day from three yards out. This touchdown and extra point would make this game a one-score game, 20-14, giving ISU a chance to potentially take the lead after a defensive stop.
It looked like the stop was imminent after a sack of eleven yards on a first and ten by Isaac Fotu. But on the very next play, Lyles, the SIU QB, would scramble and find a wide-open Sam Bonansinga, who made a tippy-toe grab, for twenty-three yards and all-in-all, erasing the sack. SIU would continue to drive and would get as close as a second and goal at the three-yard line. But again, Fotu and Inoke Moala would sack Lyles causing a third and goal from the eleven. After a one-yard rush, for the third time, Gualdoni would split the uprights and give the Salukis a nine-point lead, 23-14.
ISU would mount a great counter drive and would be in a great position to make it a one-score game again. With around eight minutes to go and in wildcat formation with Michael Haupert as the “QB”, he would fake the run and pass the ball. The pass may have been predetermined before the snap because he threw a lob into double coverage in the endzone. The ball would be intercepted and ruled a touchback, essentially destroying any chance ISU had to score again or mount a comeback. After the interception, neither team moved the ball at all, but one thing must be mentioned. On SIU’s last possession before their victory formation
possession, Jack Colquhoun may have had the punt of the day in the nation, having a one-hopper go out of bounds at the ISU one-half yard line, destroying any hope for any type of comeback by the Sycamores. The final score would be 23-14.
A positive takeaway from this game should be the ISU red zone defense. After being put in so many positions and holding multiple possessions inside the five to only field goals has got to be a great mention of the will and pride this defense retains in themselves. They will keep fighting until the very end. Granted, SIU did average 5.3 yards per rush, so there are positives and negatives with the defense.
One thing that needs to improve for ISU to end the season on a good note has got to be to open up the passing game. Another very bad outing for 3.5 quarters of the game by the passing game. Also, silly mental mistakes that result in five-yard penalties need to be cleaned up by the Sycamores.
Indiana State (3-6) will play next weekend at a tough Northern Iowa (6-3) who are on a three-game winning streak after beating Illinois State 27-10.