Another win, another week in the national top five for Southern Illinois.
The Salukis (6-1) held the No. 4 spot in both the STATS Perform FCS media poll and the American Football Coaches Association rankings released Monday after a thrilling 31-28 victory against North Dakota in Carbondale.
The win helped SIU match its win total from the spring, when they went 6-4 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. It also improved their Missouri Valley Football Conference record to a league-best 4-0, which is a half-game ahead of No. 3 North Dakota State (6-0, 3-0).
SIU coach Nick Hill said he asked his players if they were prepared to play as if they were “desperate” the rest of the season.
“We’re trying to win a conference championship for the first time in 13 years, and that’s the way we need to take the field and act,” Hill said.
The winning points Saturday came with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in the game when Johnson City native Nico Gualdoni nailed a career-long 46-yard field goal. North Dakota’s chance to send the game to overtime failed when UND kicker Brady Stevens pushed a 47-yard attempt wide right on the game’s final play.
For the third week in a row, SIU had a nail-biting victory. Prior to beat UND, the Salukis won overtime games on the road at Western Illinois and South Dakota State.
SIU is on a bye this week and returns to action Oct. 30 with a game at MVFC foe Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
Defending national champ Sam Houston State (5-0) sits atop both polls again this week. Eastern Washington (7-0) is ranked second, followed by NDSU, SIU and Villanova (5-1).
Northern Iowa is ranked 20th in this week’s media poll and 24th by the coaches.