A year ago, under then-rookie head coach Nick Hill, the Southern Illinois football program took pride in close calls against some of the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s top teams.
This season, with Hill in his second season, those close calls aren’t as encouraging.
Despite a late rally Saturday from a two-score deficit, the Salukis (4-6 overall, 2-5 MVFC) lost a 28-20 decision to Youngstown State, last season’s national FCS runner-up in Carbondale. The Salukis fell to 3-15 in games decided by one possession since 2015.
“We’re not into moral victories,” Hill said. “We have to get over that. We have to get over coming close and not making the plays that are needed to win.”
Trailing 21-10 late in the third quarter, SIU closed to 21-20 before YSU defensive end Justus Reed, a Florida transfer, stripped quarterback Matt DeSomer and returned the fumble 21 yards with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game.
DeSomer was a major bright spot for SIU, despite the fumble. Filling in for injured starter Sam Straub, DeSomer rushed for a team-high 140 yards and two touchdowns.
He also led the team in passing (6-for-19 for 81 yards) and receiving (34 yards on one catch). Before taking over for Straub, DeSomer was a backup safety.
His teammates on defense had a solid day. Safety Jeremy Chinn forced two fumbles and linebacker Kyron Watson had a game-high 11 tackles. Defensive end Anthony Knighton had a sack to raise his season total to 6.5.
The Salukis had a tough time stopping the Youngstown running game, however.
YSU (5-5, 3-4) rushed for 252 yards, thanks to the 158-yard effort from standout running back Tevin McCaster.
Players of the game
Quarterback Matt DeSomer, who has taken on running duties, rushed for 140 yards and two TDs.
Senior linebacker Kyron Watson had a game-high 11 tackles for the Salukis.
Defensive end Anthony Knighton, a redshirt freshman, had six tackles and a sack for the Salukis, raising his season sack total to 6.5.
Redshirt freshman kicker Nico Gualdoni connected on field goals of 29 and 25 yards to close the gap in the second half for SIU.
By The Numbers
2 – Forced fumbles aginst YSU by Saluki defensive back Jeremy Chinn.
2.5 – Team high tackles for loss total in the game for SIU sophomore defensive lineman Malik Haynes.
28 – Completion percentage for three SIU players (Tanner Hearn, Matt DeSomer and Connor Iwema) who attempted passes Saturday.
81 – Percentage of SIU’s 173 rushing yards gained by quarterback Matt DeSomer.
252 – Rushing yards for Youngstown State on 48 carries.
Southern Illinois (4-6, 2-5) at Western Illinois (7-3, 4-3), 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18 at Macomb, Ill.