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No. 4 SIU holds off No. 22 UND, 31-28

No. 4 Southern Illinois held off an upset bid from the injury-plagued No. 22 Fighting Hawks, 31-28, on Saturday afternoon from Saluki Stadium in Carbondale.

UND (2-4, 0-3 MVFC) ran 28 more plays and accumulated 474 total yards compared to just 363 for the Salukis (6-1, 4-0 MVFC), but a pair of missed kicks late in the game allowed the Salukis to survive.

Tommy Schuster finished with 267 yards through the air on 31 completions for a pair of touchdowns to lead the UND offense. The sophomore once again was clean in the pocket, not turning the ball over or taking a sack. With Garett Maag missing his second straight game, Bo Belquist and Jake Richter became Schuster’s favorite targets, as Belquist hauled in eight catches for 55 yards and Richter tallied six grabs for 82 yards.

Isaiah Smith filled in for Otis Weah, who did not play in Saturday’s contest, with his second-career 100-yard rushing game. The rookie scampered for 111 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Luke Skokna added 42 yards on seven carries while also catching a pair of passes.

It was tackle-by-committee for the Fighting Hawks on defense, with 25 players making at least one tackle. Devon Krzanowski led the way with nine tackles and a fumble recovery in the end zone for the first score of the contest for UND.

Playing in front of a sold-out stadium on homecoming, No. 4 SIU got off to the start it wanted. The Salukis struck for touchdowns on their first two possessions to quickly jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Hawks’ defense stepped up to make the first big play.

Backed up at its own 11, Baker was flushed from the pocket and sacked by Johnson, forcing the ball to fall into the end zone where Krzanowski pounced on the ball to cut the deficit to 14-7.

SIU was able to restore its 14-point lead, 21-7, early in the second quarter, but the defense started to batten the hatches for the remainder of the half. Following only a 21-yard punt, UND took over at midfield and started to get some mojo on offense. Led by the rushing attack of Quincy Vaughn, the Hawks marched to the 16 before Schuster found Austin Clemetson for nine yards on a fourth down play to set up a first and goal. Two plays later, a strike from Schuster to Adam Zavalney in the back of the end zone cut the score to 21-14 with 47 seconds to play in the opening half.

The defense stepped up again on the second play of the ensuing drive, with Nelson darting in front of a Baker pass for his first-career interception and gave the ball back to UND at the SIU 49 with 26 seconds to work.

After a screen to Clemetson for 18 yards got the drive going, Schuster fired a ball up to Richter, who made a falling, one-handed catch at the 1-yard line with just under 10 seconds remaining in the half. On the next play, Schuster navigated the pressure and found Brock Boltmann for his second straight game with a receiving touchdown and a tie game.

Out of the half, the momentum stayed with the visitors. Hayden Galvin came up with a sack on first down that led to a 3-and-out, where Kason Kelley busted through to block the punt and put UND right back into the red zone. The momentum flipped back to SIU, blocking a field goal attempt by Brady Stevens to keep the score tied at 21.

Late in the third quarter, SIU took the lead on a 58-yard touchdown strike to move in front, 28-21, but once again UND responded. A couple of big runs from Smith, followed by a pair of Schuster completions to Boltmann and Richter marched the Hawks inside the SIU 10. Smith capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to bring the score back to even, 28-28, with seven minutes to play.

Southern Illinois restored the lead, 31-28, with a field on the next drive, but UND had two final chances to answer. The Hawks brought it into SIU territory twice, but a pair of missed kicks allowed the Salukis to survive for the 31-28 win.