Category: Sports Blog

Salukis fight for Homecoming comeback

By Ethan Cox

For Saturday’s matchup, the Southern Illinois Salukis squared off against conference rivals, the Youngstown State Penguins. The Penguins came into town with an MVC record of 1-2 and an overall record of 3-3. A great matchup between the Salukis number one offense in the conference versus the Penguins number one defense.

The game started with the SIU offense looking quite shaky, going 3-and-out on their first two drives. They fumbled on the first punt return and on the second drive but luckily recovered both of them. It was obvious that the strategy of the SIU offense was the use of trick plays, where there were multiple times the wide receivers would run the ball. Although, it did not fool the notorious defense of Youngstown State, who stopped the Salukis for short gains almost each and every time. The Saluki defense wasn’t a force to reckon with either. With the 9th ranked defense in the conference, SIU played just as well as the Penguins did defensively, forcing multiple 3-and-outs. With six seconds left in the first quarter, Penguin backup running back, Jody Webb, fumbled on the Saluki 30 yard line which was recovered by SIU after a 46 yard drive. The quarter ended with the score at 0-0.

The second quarter started with the Salukis trying to capitalize on the fumble recovery late in the first quarter. They drove the ball down the field but were held up, being forced to attempt a 51 yard field goal. Kicker, Austin Johnson lined up for the kick and miss the field goal wide right. Directly after receiving the ball back, Penguin quarterback Hunter Wells whipped the ball down the field to complete a 46 yard pass to wide receiver Andrew Williams. Five plays and 20 yards later, Wells faded the ball up to the 6’4” Williams for a one yard touchdown completion and the first score of the game. With the ball now back, the Salukis looked to redeem themselves after the missed opportunity last drive. On their third play of the drive, star quarterback Mark Iannotti threw up a deep pass to wide receiver Billy Reed for 63 yards and a touchdown. The drive was very quick and only lasted 50 seconds long. On the next drive, Youngstown State continued their offensive dominance. In 12 plays and 81 yards, backup quarterback Ricky Davis finished the drive by rushing and bouncing around into the endzone for a five yard touchdown. Next drive, SIU drove down the field to the Penguin 20 yard line but were just short of a first down, so they were held to line up for a field goal. Instead of attempting another field goal, head coach Dale Lennon called for a fake. Iannotti threw it up to tight end Adam Fuehne, but it was dropped resulting in a turnover on downs. Youngstown State kneeled down till the half ended with the score being 14-7 Penguins.

The second half kicked off with the Penguins receiving the football. After just four plays into the third quarter, Wells threw an interception to safety Kenny James, who returned it for a touchdown of 41 yards. The extra point attempt was blocked, but the Salukis were almost neck and neck at 14-13. After the interception, there was a noticeable momentum shift in the Saluki secondary. The Penguin wide receivers were being absolutely locked up, causing back to back punts from YSU. The Salukis came out offensively with something to prove in the second half. Running back Daquan Isom rushed for almost 30 yards in their first drive. The drive ended with Iannotti bulldozing a defender into the endzone for a two yard touchdown rush, giving the Salukis their first lead of the game. On the following drive, Youngstown State reciprocated what the Salukis did by scoring another touchdown. This time, a touchdown pass from Wells to I’Tavius Harvin on a seven yard slant route. When the SIU got the ball back, they went to their first strategy of trick plays, but the Penguins defense still wouldn’t fall for it. Coach Lennon made another gutsy call, this time fourth down and it succeeded. Unfortunately, it didn’t help much as the Salukis finished the drive with a punt. Directly after retrieving the punt, the Penguin offense struck.  Wells went back to his top target of the day, Williams, for another touchdown on an 85 yard bomb down the field, putting a really bad beating on the Saluki secondary. The third quarter ended with the Penguins again leading; this time 28-20.

The fourth quarter was big for SIU as they needed to make a few defensive holds and put up some points. Right off the bat, Iannotti launched a pass to Reed for a gain of 27 yards. A few plays later, the Salukis lined up  for a 44 yard field goal. For the second time of the night, Johnson was wide right, causing the Salukis to miss out on another three points. Looking to capitalize on the missed field goal, YSU drove down the field to attempt a field goal of their own. They kicked the field goal and it was blocked, but since it was behind the line of scrimmage, the long snapper Shane Kuhn was able to scoop it up and get a Penguin first down. Three plays later, Youngstown State had another chance to kick a field goal and this time it went through the uprights. YSU had an 11 point lead over SIU with the score being 31-20. For the Salukis, the game had looked grim. They were in desperate need of points and were looking for a playmaker to make plays with just under six minutes to go. Just when they needed it most, Iannotti converted a third down screen to Isom who ran it to the endzone for 75 yards. They then successfully converted the two point conversion through a pass to tight end Shaq Findlater. With the score now being 31-28, the Saluki defense was looking to perform, and that is exactly what they did. With 3:30 left in the game, the defense held the Penguins to another three and out, forcing them to punt. This time, the punt was tipped, allowing the Salukis to get the ball on the YSU 47 yard line. Midway into the drive, the Salukis had to face a fourth and two and were able to convert. Back up running back Aaron Stanton came up clutch, catching an 18 yard pass, bringing his team to the 14 yard line. Iannotti was able to rush down to the one yard line, but it wasn’t enough to convince Coach Lennon to go for it. Instead, he had Johnson go onto the field to redeem himself, scoring the tie field goal with not enough time remaining for YSU to try to score. End of the fourth quarter with the score 31-31 going into overtime.

The Salukis won the coin toss, giving them the first chance with the ball. Lined up at the 24 yard line two plays into the drive, Iannotti dropped a dime into the hands of wide receiver Israel Lamprakes, who had been quiet all game long up until that point. Now, with a chance to send the game into double overtime, the Penguins were faced with a fourth down on the Saluki 11 yard line. Wells pitched the ball running back Martin Ruiz who then proceeded to throw the ball into the endzone. It was broken up by the Salukis, which led to them winning the game. Final score: 38-31 Salukis!

Wells finished the game with the highest quarterback rating between the two starters with a rating of 177.8. He completed 20 of 31 passes and had 324 passing yards. Iannotti finished the game with a rating of 174.4, but did not throw an interception unlike his opponent. One receiver on each team stole the spotlight. Williams of YSU had six catches for a total of 150 yards and two touchdowns and Reed of SIU had three catches for 103 yards and one touchdown.

Iannotti said it was great to pull off such an amazing comeback.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” he said. “Nothing compares to it”.

The Salukis improved to 2-2 in the MVC and 3-4 overall. They will take on the North Dakota State Bison at 2 p.m. on October 31 at home. 

“I’m hungry [for the win],” Lennon said. “We’re all hungry”.



Salukis take down Bulldogs in 3 sets

By Ethan Cox

Today marked the second matchup between the Southern Illinois University Salukis and  Drake Bulldogs. Previously, the Salukis won the first game 3-0 in Des Moines. With this being the seventh conference matchup for SIU, the Salukis were looking to get another win.

The game started with Drake taking an early 3-1 lead. Later in the first set, the Salukis were able to tie up the game. With the help of star setter, Meg Viggars, the Salukis took their first lead of the day on a 4-0 run, forcing Bulldog head coach Darrin McBroom to call a timeout. Drake returned from the time out with hope of regaining the lead. Bulldog Captain, Michelle Tommi, helped orchestrate the offense to score nine more points, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Salukis as they won the first set with the score of 25-15.

With the start of the second set of the match, Drake once again came off to a good start, taking the early lead of 3-0.

“That didn’t make us nervous at all”, said Saluki hitter, Andrea Estrada. “We played very calm and got back into the game”.

They very well did get back into the game, taking the lead this time on a 6-1 run. Unfortunately for the Salukis, the Bulldogs played a very cautious defensive strategy. They were able to fight back and tie the game at 9-9. Throughout most of the second set, the scoreline was even, with the score 16-16. With great offensive plays from Estrada, SIU pulled off the second set win, 25-18, with a little ease in their play.

The start of the third and final set had begun with Drake repeating what they had done the other two sets by taking the early lead. Scenes of Déjà vu struck for the Bulldogs as the Salukis again took the lead on a comeback run. Similar to the second set, the two teams were very evenly split in score for a good portion of the game. Frustration billowed on the Saluki sideline as some of the coaching staff thought differently on some calls the referee made. The Bulldog offense was looking exceptional, putting up 20 points. On the other hand, their defense could not stop the juggernaut offense of the Salukis. The set ended with an SIU win 25-20.

Final score 3-0 Salukis.

Setters Viggars and Hannah Kaminsky lead the team with a combined 39 assists out of the 42 total assists. Hitters  Estrada and Taylor Pippen lead the team with kills, combining for 23 of the 45 team kills. Defensively, the Salukis performed outstanding, only giving up an average of 17 points per set and making 10 team blocks. The Salukis now improve to 5-2 in the MVC and are 14-6 overall. They will face an even tougher match tomorrow against the Northern Iowa Panthers (6-3 MVC) tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Davies Gym.



NFL Week 7 Predictions

By Jeremy Sneed & Xavier Cantrell

Thursday Night Football

7:25 Seahawks (2-4) @ 49ers (2-4)

Jeremy & Xavier:  The 49ers were able to stop their four game losing streak by beating the Ravens last week.  The Seahawks lost to the Panthers last week after giving up another double digit 4th quarter lead.  Even though the 49ers finally found their groove last week, we think the Seahawks will be able to hold off Kaepernick and the rest of their offense.  Final score: 27-24

8:30 AM (in London) Bills (3-3) @ Jaguars (1-5)

Xavier: The Jaguars are off to a 1-5 start and their defense just hasn’t been good enough to hold a lead.  EJ Manuel will be getting his second straight start and I think he leads the Bills to a much needed victory.  Final score: 31-10

Jeremy: The Jaguars are desperately in need for a victory this weekend in London.  I think they will pull it off because the Bills will be without Sammy Watkins, McCoy is still banged up, and the Bills defense hasn’t been playing as well as anyone thought they would this season.  I think the Jaguars defense steps up for Bortles and secures a win.  Final score 25-14

12:00 Browns (2-4) @ Rams (2-3)

Jeremy & Xavier: Todd Gurley is proving his worth in the NFL rushing for over 145 yards in his last two weeks.  The Rams are coming off of a bye week so now Gurley will be healthy and we think that he will have another huge game.  We think Gurley will rush for 200 yards and lead the Rams to an easy 31-10 victory.

12:00 Vikings (3-2) @ Lions (1-5)

Jeremy & Xavier: The Lions are coming off of their first win of the season last week against the Bears.  The Vikings have already beaten the Lions this season 26-16 back in week 2.  We think that this week will be no different for the Vikings.  We believe that Adrian Peterson, despite having a pretty slow start to the season, will have a huge game this weekend rushing for over 100 yards and a couple touchdowns.  Vikings win this game 24-17.

12:00 Texans (2-4) @ Dolphins (2-3)

Xavier & Jeremy: The Miami Dolphins looked like a completely different team in their victory last week following multiple firings and a bye week.  New head coach Dan Campbell brought a new, ferocious attitude to his team.  We think the Dolphins carry this momentum into this week’s matchup and easily beat the Texans 35-17.

12:00 Saints (2-4) @ Colts (3-3)

Jeremy & Xavier: The Colts are coming off of a rough week 6 loss at the hand of the Patriots.  Pagano took a lot of backlash after that infamous fake punt formation.  Despite that, the Saints are not that good season and are an easy opponent for the Colts to bounce back against this week.  We think that Andrew Luck and the Colts win this game 27-13.

12:00 Steelers (4-2) @ Chiefs (1-5)

Xavier: Landry Jones filled in for a banged up Michael Vick and threw his first two NFL TD’s.  Landry Jones is getting the start this weekend against a Chiefs defense that has been stepping up lately giving up less than 20 points in their last two games.  But, I think Landry Jones and Le’Veon Bell will lead the Steelers to another victory this week.  Final score: 31-21

Jeremy: The Chiefs are off to a rough start this season and they have already lost Charles for the season and now Maclin is banged up as well.  The Chiefs defense has been improving though and I think they will create some problems for young Landry Jones.  I the Chiefs defense creates at least three turnovers and do just enough to win this game.  Final score: 17-10

12:00 Jets (4-1) @ Patriots (5-0)

Jeremy: Chris Ivory has rushed for over 145 for the last two games and has been one of the biggest offensive weapons in the NFL this season.  The Jets have the 2nd best rush defense under Todd Bowles.  I think the Jets will win this game because Ryan Fitzpatrick has beaten the Patriots before when he was on the Bills and this Jets team is way better than those Bills teams were.  I think this will be a low scoring affair with the Jets winning 16-14.

Xavier: The Patriots are just too good this season and none of their games have been close.  The Patriots will easily win this game 28-3.

12:00 Buccaneers (2-3) @ Redskins (2-4)

Xavier: Jameis Winston is coming off of his bye week with a 2-3 record.  I think that the Buccaneers will have their offensive issues figured out now after their bye week.  I think the Buccaneers will beat the Redskins easily 24-14.

Jeremy: The Buccaneers and Redskins have both been very inconsistent this season.  But, the Redskins have gotten both of their victories this season at home.  I think Kirk Cousins leads his team to another home win this week with a 24-21 victory.

12:00 Falcons (5-1) @ Titans (1-4)

Xavier & Jeremy: Now that Marcus Mariota has an MCL sprain and might be out for the next 2-3 weeks, the Titans chances of beating the Falcons this week are slim to none.  The Falcons are coming off their first loss of the season, but we think that the Falcons will bounce back and destroy the Titans this week.  Final score: 41-13

3:05 Raiders (2-3) @ Chargers (2-4)

Xavier & Jeremy: Philip Rivers made and tied NFL and Chargers records last week and came extremely close to beating the Packers.  Rivers completed 43 passes and threw for 503 yards last week.  Obviously Rivers isn’t going to do the same thing this weekend, but we believe the Chargers will bounce back with a much needed victory this week against Derek Carr and the Raiders.  Final score: 28-17

3:25 Cowboys (2-3) @ Giants (3-3)

Jeremy & Xavier: The Giants are coming off of an ugly lose in Philadelphia Monday night.  The Cowboys are struggling without Dez and Romo playing.  We think the Cowboys will lose again this week as Manning will recover and have a good game this week.  We think the Giants will win this game 24-20.

Sunday Night Football

7:30 Eagles (3-3) @ Panthers (5-0)

Jeremy & Xavier: The Eagles benefitted from three Eli Manning interceptions last week.  The Panthers proved to everyone around the league that they are a team to be reckoned with this season after beating the Seahawks in Seattle.  We think the Panthers will improve to 6-0 this week and beat the Eagles 35-16.

Monday Night Football 7:30 Ravens (1-5) @ Cardinals (4-2)

Jeremy: The Ravens are coming off of a close loss to the 49ers last week, but I think the Ravens will upset the Cardinals on Monday Night Football this week.  Flacco has been known to play well when the spotlight is on him and this week will be no different.  Final score: 24-15

Xavier: Despite a rough loss last week to the Steelers, I think the Cardinals will bounce back and pick up their 5th win of the season.  Final score: 23-13

One more game?

By Xavier Cantrell

The NBA regular season is less than one week away and everyone is finalizing their preseason predictions and getting geared up for an exciting expectations. A lot of teams this season are coming in with high expectations for the upcoming campaign and only time will tell how things will pan out, but I can’t help but notice that one former championship contender has suddenly been left out of the equation by most basketball enthusiasts.

The Indiana Pacers had a rough season last season. However one’s ambitious can’t be too high when your leading scorer, defensive anchor, and (at one point) MVP candidate misses 76 games and is on a minutes restriction for the six games he did play. Finishing ninth in the East barely missing the playoffs and seeing Paul George carried off of the court in the final game of the season was definitely a discouraging scene for Pacers fans last season but the optimism that exist today in Indiana should not be ignored.

Not only have the Pacers returned with a healthy Paul George, who has been electrifying this preseason with a 20 point first quarter in a win against the Pistons and an explosive slam in a loss to the Bulls, but they have also acquired Monta Ellis in free agency a veteran scorer who averaged 18.9 points per game in the regular season and 26 points per game along with 5.2 assists per game in the postseason. With 2 of the leagues best scorers and a host of other capable playmakers and scorers which include the likes of George Hill, CJ Miles & Rodney Stuckey the Pacers are poised to make a push in the East by pushing the ball and playing a more up tempo offense then we’ve seen over the past four or five seasons in Indiana.

I understand the Pacers lost what some believe was the anchor of our team in Roy Hibbert but if you talk to most Pacers fans and insiders they will tell you that it was time for “The Big Dawg” to find a new doghouse. However, losing David West did hurt. David was our veteran and our anchor as a team and although he was getting older and slower the mental and emotional contribution that he brought to the Pacers was something that can’t really be taught or found in most players. Even this loss wasn’t seen as a complete failure though. It opened an opportunity for Paul George to learn and grow both as a leader and by moving him to the Power Forward position in order to play a smaller and quicker brand of basketball.

Despite everything that I’ve just discussed in this article’s NBA Season Preview had the Pacers finishing ninth again and winning only one more game than last season. This statement was so appauling that Even Paul George took to Twitter upon the release of these power rankings to tweet “9th” with a laughing emoji following. Only time will tell how the season will play out, but I hope I’m not alone in saying that the Pacers are a team that could easily make the playoffs as the fifth seed.