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SIU Football

SIU Football | Salukis revel in 'ugly' win at Western Illinois

SIU Western Illinois Football

SIU and Western Illinois square off at Hanson Field in Macomb Saturday. The seventh-ranked Salukis blew a 24-10 lead but beat the Leathernecks 31-30 in overtime. 

SIU football coach Nick Hill recaps last weekend's win at Western Illinois and looks ahead to this weekend's game at No. 2/3 South Dakota State.

CARBONDALE — The bus ride home Saturday night was just as happy as if seventh-ranked SIU's football team had kept its 21-0 lead at Western Illinois.

The Salukis (4-1, 2-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference) couldn't hold the Leathernecks off, blowing a 24-10 lead late in the third quarter only to win the game 31-30 in overtime. Nico Gualdoni missed a potentially-winning, 45-yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation at Hanson Field, but linebacker Jakari Patterson didn't miss WIU receiver Dennis Houston with the game on the line. Patterson wrapped up one of the most dangerous open-field players in the league near the 3-yard line to seal the win.

"A win is a win, man, like Kobe (Bryant) said," Patterson said. "It don't matter how you do it, but if you win, bro, that's the job."

SIU quarterback Nic Baker, who shook off two interceptions to throw the go-ahead touchdown in overtime, said ugly wins count the same.

"A win's a win. Football will humble you," he said. "You just always gotta be prepared, especially in this conference, but, yeah. A win ugly is still a win."

SIU moved to 2-0 in the MVFC for the first time since 2014 with Saturday's victory. The Salukis trailed Illinois State in their league opener, but put up 35 straight points. WIU (1-4, 1-1) scored 31 straight points to rally and beat Youngstown State in its opener, and outscored SIU 14-0 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. 

SIU's one-point win was the fourth MVFC game this season, out of nine, decided by single digits. 

"I was telling Bake that earlier," SIU receiver Landon Lenoir said. "Good, bad, ugly, there's going to be games like that. We had a lightning delay, and a little bit of a setback. There's nothing we could do about it. We just gotta finish it, and that's what I preached to the team, being a four-quarter team. Teams gotta last four quarters with us, and (Saturday) it took five."

Lenoir caught the go-ahead, 25-yard touchdown pass from Baker on SIU's first play in overtime. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound senior caught five passes for 103 yards and two scores. It was his fifth career 100-yard game and the first since getting 129 at South Dakota State in the FCS spring quarterfinals. SIU plays at No. 2/3 SDSU (4-0, 1-0) Saturday in Brookings, South Dakota. 

SIU coach Nick Hill, a former Saluki quarterback, told his team to expect more nail-biters this year.

"I told 'em about coming up here my senior year in 2007. I think we were ranked second in the country, had beaten an FBS school, and the final score was 10-9," Hill said. "We got on that bus, and we were happy. Got to Carbondale, and got to work on the next team. You keep finding ways to win. It's not going to be pretty wins in the Missouri Valley." 

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Four of the five conference games this weekend will feature a top 25 team, with two games between top-15 teams.

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