Southern Illinois didn't just upset UMass Saturday at Amherst's McGuirk Stadium, the Salukis dominated the FBS school.
SIU (1-1) scored 35 unanswered points to pull off an impressive 45-20 win over UMass (0-2).
The victory was the Salukis' first over an FBS opponent since 2007, when they defeated Northern Illinois 34-31. Ironically, SIU head coach Nick Hill quarterbacked the Salukis to that triumph 12 years ago.
"I challenged our best players in the Friday meeting," Hill said on Saluki Radio after the game. "Our best players have to come to play and be our best players on game day."
That certainly happened as SIU, an underdog playing on the road, pulled off the upset.
Here are three things we learned from Saturday's SIU win:
- The Southern offense unleashed a deadly Dawg combination at running back.
Javon Williams, Jr.and D.J. Davis combined for 313 yards and four touchdowns to spark the Salukis.
Williams, a redshirt freshman, racked up 171 combined yards and three touchdowns, while Davis added 142 combined yards and a touchdown.
Williams, a converted high school quarterback from downstate Centralia, had 103 yards receiving and 68 yards rushing. He opened the SIU scoring by turning a pass in the flat into an 85-yard touchdown reception. Williams' 64-yard third-quarter touchdown run allowed the Salukis to begin pulling away from UMass. He added a three-yard TD run midway through the same period to up the SIU lead to 31-13.
"He's a playmaker," Hill said. "He's just fun to watch. He's a guy that needs the ball in his hands."
Williams had just two touches--both runs--in Southern's opening-season loss at Southeast Missouri.
“Watching film, we knew [Williams Jr.] had a role, especially on the goal line where a running quarterback can do a lot of things,” linebacker Jarvis Miller told The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. “I knew he was going to play but how much of a role he was going to have, I didn’t know obviously… We knew that we had to stop him in certain situations but he’s a good player and he made plays at the end of the day.”
2. The Saluki defense locked down the second half.
Southern's defense--much maligned in recent years--stepped up mightily as the Salukis cruised to the win. SIU limited the Minutemen to 321 yards and just seven points in the second half.
Defensive end Chucky Sullivan registered two sacks, while defensive backs Jeremy Chinn and Madre Harper each grabbed interceptions in the second half to lead directly to the win. Chinn's interception came on a UMass drive that reached the red zone (set up by a fumble by Davis). Two plays, Williams broke loose on his 64-yard touchdown run.
Saftey Qua Brown led the Salukis with 14 tackles (10 solo) and broke up two passes. Linebacker Cody Crider added 11 tackles while Sullivan, a Vernon Hills product, had eight stops.
"I was proud of our defense," Hill said. "The defensive line controlled the line of the scrimmage."
3. Stone Labanowitz was solid as a rock.
The sophomore from Stuart, Fla. shook off his lackluster Saluki debut against Southeast Missouri with a 265-yard, four-touchdown performance in Saturday's win.
Perhaps more importantly, Labanowitz threw no interceptions and was sacked only once. He completed passes to seven different receivers and averaged 10.2 yards per attempt.
"Taking care of the football on a lot of third downs, checking the ball down again. There were some things to grow off of . . . picked up some big third downs. He tucked the ball and he ran and kept us out of harm's way," Hill said of his quarterback's performance.
Three of Labanowitz's four touchdown passes went for double-digit yardage. In addition to his career-long TD to Williams, Labanowitz connected with Davis (32 yards), tight end Nigel Kilby (13) and running back Romeir Elliott (3) for scores.
Elliott, a true freshman from Warren Central in Indianapolis, rushed seven times for 57 yards. He also caught four passes for 23 yards.
What’s up next?
After being on the road for its first two games, SIU returns to Carbondale for the home opener. The Salukis host Ohio Valley Conference member UT-Martin for a 6 p.m. game.