CARBONDALE — SIU's football team had more turnovers than touchdowns in its opening game of the spring season Saturday at North Dakota, and fell 44-21 at the Alerus Center.
The 24th-ranked Salukis lost three fumbles and were picked off twice by the Fighting Hawks (1-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference), who dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to win their 34th straight home opener. Javon Williams Jr. lost the football in the red zone, setting up the tying score for UND in the first quarter, and starting quarterback Kare Lyles lost two fumbles in the opening half. Lyles left the game with what SIU called a rib injury and did not play in the second half.
Backup quarterback Nic Baker led SIU (1-1, 0-1) down the field late in the first half to help the Salukis close the gap to 16-14 at the break. Baker was picked off twice in the second half, when the Hawks outscored the Salukis 28-7. Williams capped a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive with 8:45 left with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Baker completed 12 of 23 passes for 153 yards. Romeir Elliott rushed for a team-high 39 yards on 12 carries, as SIU's streak of six straight games with 200 or more yards on the ground ended. The Salukis finished with just 90 yards rushing on 35 carries.
UND's Tommy Schuster, a redshirt freshman making his first start, completed 15 of 23 passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns. Otis Weah, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore running back, went for 91 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Lyles left the game in the second quarter after getting sacked from his blind side. Cornerback C.J. Siegel came from Lyles' left side, and wrapped him up near the Saluki 37-yard line. Linebacker Devon Krzanowski picked up the fumble and returned it 36 yards untouched for a touchdown that put the Fighting Hawks up 16-7. Hawks kicker Adam Stage missed the extra-point attempt.
The Salukis took the lead on the opening drive, going 84 yards on 11 plays. Lyles hit starting running back Justin Strong from eight yards away for the score. Nico Gualdoni added the extra point.
SIU is next at home Feb. 27 against No. 1 North Dakota State. Kickoff at Saluki Stadium is set for noon.
On Twitter: @THefferman