TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Matt Adam outrushed Mark Iannotti, and Indiana State's football team found the football last in a 39-36 victory over Southern Illinois University Saturday night.
Adam, the Sycamores' junior quarterback, rushed for a career-high 123 yards and a touchdown and added 190 yards passing and three scores in the Homecoming victory for No. 21 Indiana State (4-2, 2-1 Missouri Valley Football Conference).
Iannotti rushed for 44 yards and threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 427 yards, but couldn't get the Salukis (2-4, 1-2 MVFC) over the hump in another close loss. The defeat was SIU's fourth this season of three points or less.
"It's kind of been a trend. We play at a really high level, and we kind of let our guard down and throttle back a little bit," Iannotti said. "We just have to stay at that high level. We have to maintain our intensity, and we have to play our style of football...We need to focus on us, put this game behind us and get ready for Youngstown (State)."
Iannotti's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:28 to play pulled SIU within five points. A reverse around the right end to backup wide receiver Matt DeSomer, a play the Salukis hadn't run all season, scored the two-point conversion and cut the lead to three. Kicker Chris Adams then tried an onside kick over the first line of defense to his left, but an Indiana State player caught it with his back to the 50-yard line, negating the Salukis' last chance.
SIU nearly survived two blocked punts and two controversial ejections to win its first Valley game on the road. Adam fired incomplete on a third-and-10 from the Indiana State 40-yard line, but SIU linebacker Chase Allen was called for a personal foul/targeting, which handed the Sycamores a first down at the Saluki 46. Allen, SIU's leading tackler this season with 62, was ejected, and, by rule, could miss the first half of Saturday's game against No. 11 Youngstown State unless Valley officials rule otherwise.
Defensive end Adam Brandt, one of SIU's best pass rushers, was ejected in the first half for a roughing the passer personal foul with targeting. Lennon said he wouldn't comment on the two ejections until he had a chance to see them again on film. He did say officials told him the two players led with the crown of their helmet in the direction of Adam's helmet.
Targeting is not an automatic ejection. Instant replay, which officials might have examined to see if Brandt and/or Allen could have stayed in the game, was unavailable despite the game airing on ESPN3.
Indiana State scored its final touchdown after getting the first down at the SIU 46. Adam found Gary Owens for a touchdown for the third time, this time from 33 yards out, for an 11-point lead at the 3-minute mark. The extra-point attempt was blocked by the Salukis, but the Sycamores had more than enough to move to 2-1 in league play. Owens, who tied Indiana State's single-season touchdown catches mark with his eighth of the year, snared five passes for 128 yards.
Beginning with Saturday's game against the Penguins, the Salukis must now win out to even be eligible for the playoffs, and four of their final five opponents are nationally ranked. And, the one that isn't, South Dakota, beat second-ranked North Dakota State on Saturday in Fargo on a last-second field goal.
"This one was just a very adverse game. A lot of things happened in it that didn't go our way, and because of that we came up short," Lennon said. "It's unfortunate, sometimes, you gotta deal with the adversity you have to deal with, but those were the cards we were dealt and that's what we had to fight through."