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Southern Illinois rallies from early deficit for 24-17 win

By David Coulson, FCS Executive Editor

Carbondale, IL (Sports Network) - No one anticipated a first-quarter knockout when No. 6 ranked Southern Illinois hosted No. 10 Youngstown State in a heavyweight Gateway Conference showdown Saturday afternoon.

But Southern Illinois found itself on the ropes with Youngstown State jumping to a quick 10-0 lead and poised to score more before the Salukis regrouped for a hard-fought 24-17 homecoming victory before 13,188 fans at McAndrew Stadium.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," said Saluki linebacker Chauncey Mixon. "It's four quarters, not one."

Deji Karim's 15-yard scoring scamper with 1:50 remaining capped off an eight- play, 87-yard drive to put Southern Illinois (6-0, 2-0) ahead and the Saluki defense held off one final YSU possession for the win.

Southern Illinois rallied to tie the game with 10 second-quarter points and the two teams traded second-half touchdowns before Karim�s game-winning score.

On a steamy afternoon where the temperatures rose into the 90s, SIU coach Jerry Kill felt fortunate that his team was able to outlast a talented opponent.

"That was the toughest game (heat-wise) I've coached in 24 years," said Kill. "It was brutal out there."

Stamina almost didn't matter for the Salukis, however.

YSU's Lenny Wicks forced a Craig Turner fumble on the opening kickoff that teammate Jarvis Richards recovered at the SIU 34 to set up Brian Palmer's 42- yard field goal.

And after forcing Southern Illinois to a three and out, Youngstown State (4-2, 1-1) needed just nine plays to go 60 yards and score again on Ferlando Williams' 12-yard TD dash.

Trailing by 10 points, Southern Illinois was clearly in trouble.

"We gathered ourselves and didn't panic," said Kill. "We stayed persistent and didn't get away from our game plan."

The Southern Illinois defense began to control Youngstown's running game and the Salukis rallied to tie the game on John Randle's five-yard TD burst and Kyle Dougherty�s 32-yard field goal. Randle finished with 16 carries for 122 yards.

Nick Hill's 14-yard scoring strike to Justin Allen finally gave the Salukis the lead with six minutes left in the third period. But when Hill (13-of-20 for 165 yards) fired his first interception of the season to Wicks early in the fourth quarter, the Penguins were in position to tie the game on a three- yard Williams sprint.

Both teams missed field goals in the second half, YSU's Palmer from 41 yards and SIU's Dougherty from 39, setting up the game�s dramatic finish.

"Down the stretch, they out-executed us on some key plays," said YSU coach Jon Heacock. "We needed the execute better to win this game."

Youngstown's senior quarterback Tom Zetts completed 19-of-32 passes for 164 yards and was helped by Williams, who split time between quarterback and receiver. Williams rushed 15 times for 87 yards and also caught seven passes for 43 yards.

But the Penguins missed several chances to keep good drives alive and SIU ultimately took advantage to win.

"We kept telling everyone to keep fighting, to keep the faith," said Karim. "We've been behind by bigger deficits than that."

10/08 02:05:08 ET