BROOKINGS, S.D. (SDSU) — Southern Illinois stormed back from an early 20-point deficit to defeat South Dakota State in overtime, 42-41, in a Missouri Valley Football Conference battle between top-10 teams Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The Salukis, ranked seventh by the Football Championship Subdivision coaches and eighth in the Stats Perform media poll, improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in league play. SDSU, ranked second by the media and third by the coaches, fell to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the MVFC.
The Jackrabbits dominated both sides of the ball in the first 21 minutes of the game in building a 20-0 advantage. SDSU took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on seven plays, with Walter Payton Award candidate Pierre Strong, Jr., scoring on a 20-yard run for the first score of the game.
SDSU ran its lead to 17-0 in the opening minute of the second quarter with 10 points over the span of 15 seconds. After Cole Frahm kicked a 40-yard field goal, Jackrabbit linebacker Isaiah Stalbird forced a fumble and Xavier Ward recovered at the SIU 19. The SDSU offense needed only one play to score as Strong lofted a halfback pass to Jadon Jake in the end zone.
Frahm’s second field goal of the half, one from 22 yards out with 9 minutes and 12 minutes remaining in the first half, pushed the Jackrabbit advantage to 20-0.
However, the SDSU lead could have been even bigger by that point as SDSU fumbled – its first turnover of the season – in the red zone on its second possession of the game and the Jackrabbits were set up with first and goal at the SIU 8 before Frahm’s second field goal.
SIU began to have the momentum turn in its favor midway through the second quarter. The Salukis got on the board on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Nic Baker to Jerron Rollins, then after an interception on the ensuing Jackrabbit possession, cashed in on a short field as Landon Lenoir hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Baker.
The Salukis were poised to take their first lead of the game late in the third quarter, but the SDSU defense came up with what could have been the decisive play of the game. After taking a field goal off the board due to a penalty, SIU opted to go for it on fourth and goal from the SDSU 2. Saluki running back Javon Williams Jr. went airborne in an attempt to score, but Ryan Van Marel jarred the ball loose before Williams broke the plane of the goal line and Malik Lofton scooped up the football at the 3 and proceeded to roll down the left sideline for the longest fumble return in Jackrabbit history.
The big plays would continue in the fourth quarter, with three touchdowns scored in the span of a minute. First, SIU scored on a 19-yard pass from Baker to Zach Gibson on a fourth-and-4 play. SDSU needed only one play to respond as Strong broke through an arm tackle and ran past the Saluki defense for a career-long 85-yard touchdown. The Salukis then drew back to within 35-28 on a 63-yard touchdown run by Donnavan Spencer.
SDSU had another chance to cushion its lead thwarted when SIU blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt with 3:36 to play.
Baker then led SIU on the game-tying drive, a 14-play, 70-yard march that included two fourth-down conversions. First, the Saluki quarterback scrambled for eight yards and a first down on fourth and six, then he hooked up with Izaiah Hartrup for 18 yards and a fresh set of downs on fourth and 11 from the SIU 41. Baker capped the drive by tossing his fourth touchdown pass of the game with 34 seconds remaining, a 19-yarder to Lenoir.
SIU opted to kick the extra point and play for overtime.
SDSU won the overtime coin toss and opted to go on defense first, but SIU maintained its rhythm offensively with Baker picking up 14 yards to set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Spencer.
The Jackrabbits needed only two plays answer with a touchdown of their own. Oladokun found an open Canyon Bauer for 14 yards before connecting with Tucker Kraft in the end zone for an 11-yard score. Kraft ended the game with career highs of 10 catches and 124 receiving yards.
Rather than play for another extra session, SDSU opted to try to go for the win with another two-point try. This time, Oladokun’s pass to Zach Heins was well defended and fell to the turf, giving SIU the 42-41 victory.
The two squads combined for more than 1,100 yards of total offense, with the Jackrabbits holding a narrow 559-546 lead. Strong ended the afternoon with 162 rushing yards on 20 carries and added another 51 yards on four receptions. Oladokun completed 23-of-31 passes for a season-high 358 yards. Jadon Janke racked up 117 receiving yards on three first-half catches.
For SIU, Baker threw for 359 yards on 28-of-45 passing. Lenoir collected 147 yards on 10 catches with Rollins tallying 104 yards on four catches. Spencer wrapped up the day with 103 rushing yards on only 10 carries and the two touchdowns – all of which came in the second half and overtime.
Adam Bock registered a career-best 17 tackles, including a half-sack for the Jackrabbits. Bryce Notree paced SIU with 10 tackles.
The Jackrabbits return to action Oct. 16 at Western Illinois. Kickoff is set for noon at Hanson Field in Macomb, Illinois.
- SIU ended a six-game losing streak to the Jackrabbits, but SDSU still leads the all-time series, 9-4
- Strong topped the 100-yard mark for the fourth time this season and 14th time in his career
- Strong’s touchdown pass was his second of the season and fourth of his career
- SIU ran 81 offensive plays, compared to 61 by the Jackrabbits
- SDSU punted only once in the game, a 50-yarder by Hunter Dustman
- Three of Strong’s 100-yard games have come against Southern Illinois
- Jadon Janke hit the century mark in receiving yards for the second time in his career
- Bock’s 17 stops are tied for sixth-most by a Jackrabbit since tackles became an official NCAA statistic in 2000
- SDSU fell to 5-6 in overtime games, including 2-1 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium
- Attendance was 12,216