CARBONDALE — Matt DeSomer led all three of SIU's scoring drives in Saturday's 28-20 loss to Youngstown State, and will get more opportunities in the season finale at Western Illinois.

Saluki coach Nick Hill announced DeSomer will make his first collegiate start under center when SIU (4-6, 2-5 Missouri Valley Football Conference) closes the year at No. 9/10 Western Illinois (7-3, 4-3) in Macomb. DeSomer, a 6-foot, 198-pound junior who has returned punts, caught passes as a wide receiver and played some backup safety in his three seasons, completed 6 of 19 passing for 81 yards against the Penguins. He was also SIU's leading rusher, with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, and the leading receiver after hauling in a 34-yard pass from Connor Iwema on a trick play.

Sophomore quarterback Tanner Hearn will be the backup this weekend, Hill said.

"Matt is not just a runner. He can throw the ball down the field," Hill said. "He has a strong arm. Given the chance, he'll make throws, and we gotta continue to expand that package. And both of them have to be ready to play this week."

Hearn threw five incompletions against Youngstown State. In the most extensive playing time of his Saluki career, Hearn is 32 of 72 for 456 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions. He has rushed for 50 yards on 19 carries in seven appearances, two of them starts.

DeSomer has completed 15 of 31 passes for the season for 158 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He has rushed for 228 yards, the fourth-most on the team, on 40 carries with two touchdowns. DeSomer rushed for a 58-yard touchdown in the second quarter for the first score of the game and added a 1-yard scoring run in the second half.

DeSomer, a former state champion quarterback at Andrean High School in Indiana, lost the football late in Saturday's game, which led to the eight-point margin. Right before his arm came forward on a pass, Youngstown State's Justus Reed dislodged the football, picked it up and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown in the final two minutes of the game.

SIU defeated the Leathernecks, who were ranked 23rd in the country at the time, 44-34 last year at Saluki Stadium. Quarterback Sam Straub threw for a school-record 450 yards and four touchdowns in the victory, overcoming three interceptions. The Salukis outscored the Leathernecks 20-3 in the fourth quarter.

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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