Illinois FCS trio garners player of the week honors; Salukis at No. 7 in national polls

Southern Illinois players celebrate Saturday’s 35-17 win with fans at Saluki Stadium. (photo courtesy

A scintillating kickoff return, a 23-tackle performance and a sack total that flashes back 18 years all translated into a trio of player of the weeks awards for Illinois FCS players.

Southern Illinois returner Izaiah Hartrup, Western Illinois safety Darius Joiner and Eastern Illinois defensive lineman Jordan Miles were all lauded by their respective conferences for their standout performances in Saturday victories.

Hartrup attack

Southern Illinois’ Hartrup’s 70-yard kickoff return was the factor in the redshirt freshman being named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.

Izaiah Hartrup

It was also a major ignition to SIU’s 35-point second half rally past rival Illinois State before a family weekend crowd at Saluki Stadium.

“I knew we needed a spark,” Hartrup said in the postgame. “I was really hoping coach would say we could take that kick return out. I knew as soon as he gave me the signal to do it, I was going to make a big play.”

Hartrup also caught a career-high seven passes for 82 yards, including an incredible one-handed grab on a key, 47-yard reception in the fourth quarter.

Joining in the fun

WIU’s Joiner registered a career-high 23 tackles — 14 solo — as the Leathernecks shut out Youngstown State in the second half and rallied for a 38-35 win.

Those numbers resulted in Joiner being named Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week.

Darious Joiner

Joiner’s 23 total tackles ranks sixth-best in program history for a single game.

Joiner, a transfer from Jacksonville State, has recorded double-digit numbers in tackles in all four games this season.

The Alabama native also has one interception.

Joiner appeared in five games in his second full year at Jacksonville State during 2019, including three straight to start the season. His previous single-game high in tackles was seven against Southeastern Louisiana that season.

A Jordanesque outing

Miles played a key role in EIU’s 28-14 win at Tennessee Tech to open the Panthers’ Ohio Valley Conference schedule. Thus, the freshman from Indianapolis was selected as the league’s defensive player of the week.

Miles finished with four tackles, three of which were sacks.

Jordan Miles

Miles became the first EIU player in 18 years to collect three or more sacks in a game.  The last was Kory Lothe with four sacks on Nov. 8, 2003, ironically enough against Tennessee Tech.

Miles’ final two sacks of the game both ended Tennessee Tech’s final two possessions of the game as both were strip sacks that ended in EIU recovered fumbles.

His three sacks on the season leads the OVC, while his 7.5 tackles for loss for the season also leads the conference and ranks 22nd in the FCS.   Miles two forced fumbles place him 32nd among FCS leaders.

Miles added two quarterback hurries and EIU’s defense recorded five sacks, 11 tackles for loss and four turnovers gained.

Salukis hold steady in one poll; up a slot in the other

The rousing comeback victory over rival Illinois State kept Southern Illinois at its No. 7 ranking in this week’s FCS STATS Perform poll.

SIU also moved up a spot to seventh in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll. Southern was No. 8 last week.

The Salukis (3-1 overall, 1-0 in Missouri Valley) fell behind 17-0 before a fast and furious rally propelled SIU to the win in front of 8,618 fans in Carbondale.

SIU trailed 10-0 at halftime and had only picked up two first downs in the opening two quarters.

“I’m not a huge yeller,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said afterward. “They (the players) know the standards and what needs to take place. Our leadership was outstanding. We all needed to just take a deep breath.”

Ignited by a 70-yard kickoff return by Hartrup, SIU began its climb to victory. Another key play came when the Salukis stuffed an ISU fourth-and-one run at the SIU 6.

The Salukis then overwhelmed the Redbirds (2-2, 0-1) in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns.

Southern’s defense pitched a fourth-quarter shutout and applied heavy pressure to ISU quarterback Jackson Waring, sacking him four times, including a key strip-sack by Jordan Berner.

Stats Perform FCS Top 10

1. Sam Houston (3-0, 1-0 AQ7), 1,208 points (32 first-place votes)

Previous Ranking: 1; Week 4 Result: 45-35 win at then-No. 25 Central Arkansas

2. South Dakota State (3-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley), 1,195 (10)

Previous Ranking: 2; Week 4 Result: 44-0 win at Indiana State

3. James Madison (3-0, 1-0 CAA), 1,162 (5)

Previous Ranking: 3; Week 4 Result: Open week

4. Montana (3-0, 1-0 Big Sky), 1,089 (3)

Previous Ranking: 4; Week 4 Result: 39-7 win over Cal Poly

5. North Dakota State (3-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley), 1,070   

Previous Ranking: 5; Week 4 Result: Open week

6. Eastern Washington (4-0, 1-0 Big Sky), 964

Previous Ranking: 6; Week 4 Result: 50-21 win at Southern Utah

7. Southern Illinois (3-1, 1-0 Missouri Valley), 909  

Previous Ranking: 7; Week 4 Result: 35-17 win over Illinois State

8. UC Davis (4-0, 1-0 Big Sky), 859

Previous Ranking: 12; Week 4 Result: 17-14 win at then-No. 14 Weber State

9. Delaware (2-1, 1-0 CAA), 842

Previous Ranking: 8; Week 4 Result: Open week

10. North Dakota (2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley), 785

Previous Ranking: 10; Week 4 Result: Open week

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