Southern moves up one spot in FCS national polls; WIU, ISU players earn weekly honors

SIU linebacker Bryce Notree (54) celebrates a tackle during the Salukis’ 55-3 victory Saturday against Dayton in Carbondale. (Photo by SIUSalukis.com)

After posting its most lopsided win since 2017, the Southern Illinois football team jump one spot in both FCS national football polls Monday.

The Salukis, who beat Dayton 55-3 in their home opener Saturday, moved up to No. 7 in the STATS Perform media poll and to No. 8 in the American Football Coaches Association rankings.

After limited-capacity crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring FCS season, a crowd of 7,338 greeted the Salukis in Carbondale over the weekend. Players encouraged students and fans to attend throughout the week, and the Salukis delivered on the field.

“We got those fans in the stands rocking,” linebacker Makel Calhoun told SIUSalukis.com. “It was amazing seeing our fans … supporting us in our first game back (after the spring COVID season).

In a social media post Monday, Hill thanked the student body “for creating an awesome atmosphere. … I can’t tell you how much the coaching staff and players appreciate you!”

SIU opens the Missouri Valley Football Conference play this weekend with a 2 p.m. Saturday kickoff against Illinois State (2-1).

In the media poll, Sam Houston is ranked No. 1 this week, followed by South Dakota State, James Madison, Montana, North Dakota State and Eastern Washington.

The coaches’ poll has the same top six teams, but ranked James Madison at No. 2 and South Dakota State at No. 3.  Villanova is ranked one spot ahead of the Salukis.

The coaches poll lists 19 teams in the others receiving votes category and includes Illinois State with six votes.

Sampson’s career day

Western Illinois senior quarterback Connor Sampson enjoyed the best passing day of his career Saturday in Macomb and earned MVFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.

Sampson was 31-for-46 with a career-high 425 yards in the Leathernecks’ 62-56 loss to No. 7 Eastern Washington.

The Leathernecks rallied with 35 second-half points thanks to four TD passes from Sampson. His four TD throws in the game also ranks as a career best.

Impact defender at ISU

Illinois State junior defensive lineman Braydon Deming was named MVFC Defensive Player of the Week after his 10-tackle performance in the Redbirds’ 31-24 victory at Eastern Illinois in the 109th Mid-America Classic rivalry game.

Deming, a transfer from Montana, had four tackles for loss and a sack in the game. He was part of a Redbird defense that stopped EIU on fourth down three different times in the second half. One of the fourth-down stops led to the game-winning touchdown with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game.

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