Team reports are our stories from the ground, articles written about the game by fans at the game.
With 7:34 remaining in the third quarter, there was great reason for hope in Redhawk Nation. Quarterback Kyle Snyder had just connected for his third touchdown of the afternoon, a 75-yard strike to Paul McRoberts, to tie the game at 19.
But that’s where a surprisingly resurgent Southeast Missouri squad reverted to the team many of us were used to seeing. Southern Illinois scores the final 17 points of the game, escaping the first ever football game inside St. Louis’ Busch Stadium 36-19.
SEMO’s much maligned defense held SIU to back-to-back field goals to open the second half, as SIU held a 22-19 lead with 2:48. On the ensuing kickoff, Spenser Davis takes the ball out of the endzone only to get to the 13 yard line. On 3rd and 14 from their own nine-yard line, an aggressive offense all afternoon suddenly became conservative, handing the ball off on a read option.
The next possession, SIU finally took advantage, as Kory Faulkner found MyCole Pruitt after a five play drive, and the Salukis were officially in control of the game.
Snyder found himself under fire on all three plays of the ensuing drive, taking a 25-yard sack on 3rd and 10. Another punt led to another Saluki touchdown, all but ending the game with 7:31 to play, almost one quarter exactly after it looked like the Redhawks might pull off a major upset.
“I think the ground game took a bit of momentum from us,” Southeast Missouri head coach Tony Samuel said. “I thought our kids played well.”
Snyder had one of his best games as a Redhawks, finishing 17-33 passing for 249 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Snyder took all the snaps from under center for the first time this year, playing in just his third game since missing all of 2012 with a knee injury.
“Kyle’s got a very good arm. The rust is almost all gone.” Samuel joked. “Right on time, right on time. Conference starts next week.
“Just as far as an offense as a whole, I thought we did some good things,” Snyder added. “We just got to clean up some stuff going into conference play this week, and stay at a more consistent basis.”
St. Louis native Paul McRoberts was the recipient of two of those touchdown passes, including that 75-yard breakaway touchdown in the third quarter.
“The defender got his hand on the ball,” McRoberts said of that play. “I just pulled it away, and I was running.”
“It felt pretty good,” he added.
There were a few minor complaints about the field at St. Louis from both sides after the game. The sand-based grass field, compared to the turf most teams are used to playing on, was described as “slippery” by both sides, and the added hard dirt in part of the field added another tricky component to the game.
For you baseball fans out there, grounds crews began tearing up the outfield immediately after the game, to make sure it’s back in pristine condition when the St. Louis Cardinals return to town.
The game could have played out much differently early. After trading 11 and 10 play touchdown drives in the first quarter, SIU got a big return off a short kickoff to start their second drive near midfield. Another lengthy, 11-play drive later, Ken Malcome drove in from two-yards out on third and goal, as the Saluki’s took a 14-7 lead.
Things threatened to get out of hand early. SEMO forced a punt on SIU’s next possession, but Davis backed off the punt, which bounced at the 10, and was downed at the one. Snyder would be sacked for a safety two plays later, nearly fumbling the ball in the red zone.
The Salukis’ would start the next drive in Redhawks territory, but three plays later, Faulker through an interception to Buck Wilson, after his reciever slipped on the play. Wilson would be injured on the interception return, left the field on a stretcher, and would not return to the game.
Samuel did not comment on the nature or extent of the injury.
The Redhawks were not able to take advantage of the interception. After forcing a punt of their own on SIU’s next possession, SEMO began driving with 2:28 to play. The drive would stall at the SIU 30, as the Redhawks kicking woes forced SEMO to go for it on 4th and 5, with Snyder missing Faulkner on the pass.
But just one play later, Faulkner would throw his second interception, an ill-concieved pass picked out of mid-air by Daniel Siehndel. With just :40 seconds to play, Southeast Missouri would drive 40-yards, capping it off with a 3-yard pass from a scrambling Snyder to McRoberts with :06 to go. The PAT attempt would be blocked, leaving SEMO down three at the half.
With the loss, Southeast Missouri remains winless on the year. They start conference play next week against UT Martin, in their home opener.
“We’re gaining momentum,” Samuel said. “We’re going to be heard from.”