Story: Missouri State Athletics
Southern Illinois rode a record-setting offensive attack to post its first Missouri Valley Football Conference victory of the season, racking up 673 yards of total offense in a 73-26 win over Missouri State Saturday evening at Saluki Stadium.
SIU eclipsed its own Valley single-game scoring record, surpassing a 72-point effort by the Salukis against Indiana State in 2007.
Mark Iannotti led SIU’s offensive effort, totaling 312 yards of total offense, including 206 passing yards and three first-half touchdown tosses, as well as 106 rushing yards. Chris Perkins finished with a game-high 116 rushing yards to lead an SIU ground attack that tallied 416 yards on 50 carries for the contest.
The Salukis (2-3, 1-1 MVFC) used a quick-strike attack that recorded three different scoring drives of 47 seconds or less in the opening half to build a 22-point halftime advantage. Paced by Iannotti’s three touchdown passes, the Salukis racked up 408 yards of offense over the game’s first 30 minutes.
Given the big lead, SIU sealed the outcome with an effective second-half offensive performance as well, rushing for 226 yards on 27 attempts.
MSU, which dropped to 1-4 on the year and 0-2 in MVFC play, was led by Ryan Heaston’s 76 rushing yards, while Malik Earl hauled in four passes for a career-high 106 yards and a touchdown. Deion Holliman provided the key performance by a Bear, eclipsing his own Missouri State Division I single-game record for combined kick return yardage, totaling 238 yards on nine kickoff returns to go along with a 36-yard punt return for 274 total yards.
But it was the Salukis’ offense that controlled the tempo from the outset, scoring three times in the opening 12 minutes of the game to establish an early lead. SIU wasted little time in putting the nation’s No. 5 offense on display, using just two plays to cover 85 yards on the game’s opening drive. Iannotti connected with Billy Reed on a 24-yard strike to open the possession, before the senior quarterback streaked through the MSU defense for a 61-yard scoring run to put the Salukis on top, 7-0, just 31 seconds into the contest.
The Bears answered on their second possession of the night, taking advantage of a 40-yard Brodie Lambert pass completion to Earl and a roughing penalty that wiped out a blocked field goal try to get on the scoreboard. Given a reprieve, Marcelo Bonani converted a 28-yard kick to make it a 7-3 game.
But the Salukis would respond with a 75-yard scoring march that was capped off by a 17-yard pass from Iannotti to Israel Lamprakes with 5:07 to play in the opening quarter. Next, SIU’s big-play offense struck again, needing just three plays and 47 seconds to make it a 21-3 game when Iannotti found Reed open in the end zone for a three-yard scoring toss.
Holliman’s 36-yard punt return to the SIU 19 set up the Bears’ second scoring drive of the game, but it would take a second big play by MSU special teams to complete the scoring drive. After setting up for an apparent field goal try from the SIU 14 on fourth and five, holder Jared Beshore pitched to Bonani on a fake to the right side and the MSU kicker eluded the Saluki defense for a 12-yard run that handed the Bears a first-and-goal at the SIU 2. Lambert found Earl in the corner of the end zone for the second time this season to cut the Saluki lead to 21-9 with 13:56 left in the first half.
It would take the Salukis just two plays to answer the Bears’ score, as Iannotti hit Jimmy Jones in the left flat and the freshman receiver raced to pay dirt untouched. A 17-yard rush by Iannotti set up another scoring drive on the home club’s next offensive possession, and his backup–Matt McIntosh–picked up right where he left off, connecting with Josh Skadeland on a 19-yard touchdown that stretched the margin to 35-9 with 8:55 remaining on the clock.
After an Eric Phillips interception halted a Saluki drive, the Bears took to the air to cut into the deficit. Making his first appearance for MSU since the Bears’ Sept. 12 home-opening win over Chadron State, Breck Ruddick hooked up with Earl for a 59-yard completion that set up a first-and-goal at the SIU 4. Jason Randall took it in from there for his first collegiate touchdown, slicing the SIU lead to 35-16.
SIU picked up right where it left off to begin the second half, cashing in on a Chase Allen sack and 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown, as well as an 80-yard drive that was punctuated by a Jonathan Mixon four-yard run to extend its lead to 52-16 less than five minutes into the third period.
MSU used a methodical 10-play drive to strike back, as Ruddick completed 3-of-4 passes and broke off an 11-yard rush, before Randall covered the final 14 yards to reach the end zone for the second time in the game.
But SIU kept the petal to the metal, scoring on a short run by Jones before the end of the third, then tacking on two more late scores to offset a second Bonani field goal that accounted for the final margin.
Dylan Cole led the Missouri State defense in total tackles for the fifth straight game this season, finishing with a game-high 14 stops.