SIU football opens season with 64-29 setback at Incarnate Word

Incarnate Word overcame a lengthy, pregame lightning delay and an in-game power outage to beat Southern Illinois, 64-29, in the season opener for both teams on Saturday night.

The No. 14-ranked Cardinals (1-0) were led by quarterback Lindsey Scott, who completed 17-of-25 passes for 391 yards and six touchdowns.

The 35-point setback was a tough pill to swallow for the No. 9-ranked Salukis.

"It starts with me," said SIU head coach Nick Hill. "I'm disappointed with how we came out here and performed. I think we have a better football team than that, but until we go out there and prove it, it's all talk."

Earlier in the week, Hill said his defense needed to limit big plays, but tonight, it surrendered TD strikes from 66, 55, 79, 36, 38 and 38 yards.

"They all were explosive touchdown passes," Hill said. "You're not going to win any games doing that."

The Salukis (0-1) had a disastrous first quarter, falling behind, 22-0. Twice, SIU punter Nathan Torney had the snap sail over his head, resulting in losses of 29 and 40 yards.

The first errant snap went through the end zone for a safety, while the second ultimately led to an Incarnate Word touchdown.

"So much of this game is built on momentum," Hill said. "You have to try to steal that momentum back."

Seconds after UIW scored its 22nd point, the lights went out, literally.

Fans and players stood around in darkness for about 20 minutes before power was restored.

"There was a lot that went on in that first half that wasn't good," Hill said wryly.

The Salukis did finally steal the momentum in the second quarter, as they rallied to cut the deficit to 29-16 at the half.

The comeback started when running back Ro Elliott sprinted 55 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown on a big fourth-down conversion. Later, Justin Strong scored from six yards out, and Jake Baumgarte ended the half with a 47-yard field goal.

Southern got the ball first in the second half and moved into position to make it a one-score game.

SIU had first-and-goal at the UIW 2, but lost 12 yards in three plays and settled for a Baumgarte field goal to make it 29-19.

It was a deflating end to a 19-play drive.

SIU quarterback Nic Baker, who completed 19-of-31 passes for 175 yards, was under heavy pressure throughout the game and was sacked five times.

He also threw a pick-six in the third quarter. Hill said four starters on the O-Line left the field at various times due to injuries or cramps.

Not including the errant punt snaps, Southern's offense was out-gained, 550-397.

Elliott led SIU with 103 rushing yards and Avante Cox had six catches for 57 yards.

The Salukis return home next Saturday to play local rival SEMO in the annual War For The Wheel.

"You don't have any other choice but to look yourself in the mirror and come back to work," Hill said.

"We're going to have to put this game behind us, after we look at the film and make corrections, be honest with ourselves about what we need to get better at."

"I know this team has it in them," he concluded. "We have to come back and find a way to get back to 1-1."