Salukis blow past Indians 42-3

Friday, September 3, 2004

Southeast Missourian

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Quarterback Joel Sambursky is one of the least heralded members of a high-powered Southern Illinois University offense that features two Division I-A tailback transfers.

But it was Sambursky who came up with one big play after another Thursday night to help bail out an SIU attack that sputtered early as the Salukis pulled away from Southeast Missouri State University for a 42-3 season-opening romp.

SIU, ranked second in both major Division I-AA polls, also got a stellar performance from its defense as the Salukis prevailed in front of a McAndrew Stadium crowd of 11,314, which included a few hundred Southeast fans.

"I'm very pleased just to come out with a win, no matter what the score was," said Sambursky, whose squad led only 14-3 at halftime. "I don't think anybody overlooked this game, knowing it's a rivalry. We really respect their squad."

With Southeast intent on trying to stop SIU's vaunted power rushing attack, Sambursky -- a junior in his third season as a starter -- burned the Indians by completing 13 of 18 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown.

More importantly, during SIU's first three touchdown drives, Sambursky connected on third-down completions to keep each march alive.

"That's kind of been my life. I'm fine with that role, just not make mistakes and give it to the big guys," said a smiling Sambursky of his unheralded status. "But we just complement each other, the run and the pass. When you can run and throw, it makes it very effective."

Said Southeast coach Tim Billings, "They have a really good football team, and the key is their quarterback. He just doesn't make mistakes."

The Salukis were also able to do plenty of damage their preferred way -- on the ground -- particularly after Sambursky helped soften up Southeast's defense that held strong for most of the first half.

SIU finished with 320 yards rushing for a total offense of 554 yards. They piled up 220 rushing yards in the second half and overall had 340 second-half yards.

Auburn transfer Brandon Jacobs gained 106 yards on 18 carries and scored four touchdowns, from 1, 2, 2 and 29 yards. Junior college transfer Arkee Whitlock led the Salukis with 109 yards on 18 attempts and he scored twice, on a 2-yard run and a 22-yard reception..

Southeast had just 250 yards, and only 111 came after halftime. The Indians rushed for just 67 yards.

Quarterback Andrew Goodenough completed 21 of 35 passes for 183 yards, with an interception. Tailback Jamel Oliver caught six passes for 43 yards and rushed for 31 yards on seven attempts. Tight end Ray Goodson caught five passes for 54 yards. Tailback David Taufoou rushed for 36 yards on eight carries.

"They have a good team, I give them that," Southeast offensive lineman Dan Connolly said. "We just have to stay positive."

SIU, which never trailed after scoring on its first possession of the game, found the end zone on only two of six first-half possessions.

But the Salukis turned an interesting game into a blowout by scoring on both of their third-quarter offensive series and hitting the end zone on their first four possessions of the second half before they cleared their bench midway through the final period.

The Salukis' six touchdown drives covered 92, 66, 70, 80, 80 and 48 yards. SIU also did not have a turnover while Southeast turned the ball over three times.

After Southeast could not move on the game's opening possession, SIU drove 92 yards and led 7-0 after Jacobs' 1-yard run.

Southeast answered with its only points of the game as Derek Kutz booted a 38-yard field goal with 4:36 left in the first quarter, capping a 71-yard drive.

Both teams had chances the rest of the half but failed to convert before SIU finally went ahead 14-3 on Jacobs' 2-yard run with 3:33 left.

"They have a great team, but we gave them all the momentum early," Goodson said.

The second half was no contest as SIU simply pummeled Southeast and held a more than 11-minute edge in time of possession over the final two quarters.

Jacobs' 2-yard run less than four minutes into the half made it 21-3. Late in the third quarter, Whitlock scored from 2 yards out for a 28-3 lead.

Sambursky's 22-yard pass to Whitlock early in the final period put SIU up 35-3, then Jacobs' 29-yard run midway through the quarter signaled the end of the night for many of the Salukis' top players.

"If we could have just got some momentum. ... We never had any momentum," Billings said.

Southeast's coach acknowledged his disappointment that the Indians were not able to at least make SIU sweat down the stretch.

"I'm real disappointed," Billings said. "I didn't know if we could beat them, but I didn't think they could totally run over us. I thought we could play the whole game more like we did in the second half."

One of the perhaps few bright spots for the Indians by the end of the game was sophomore punter David Simonhoff, who averaged 53.2 yards on six kicks.

But when a team's punter is its star player, that's generally not a good sign -- and it wasn't for the Indians Thursday.

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