SDSU holds off Salukis in Hobo Day win


Jackrabbit fans had a reason to celebrate the Hobo Day game with the defeat of Salukis, 45-34.

For as disappointing a season as the Jacks have had, it was hard to predict what Hobo Day had in store for SDSU.

The game lived up to its unpredictable billing and had the unlikeliest of sources help the Jackrabbits down the stretch to 45-34 victory over Southern Illinois on a windy day at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.

A tough four-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter by rarely-used senior Dom Clare stopped the momentum that the Salukis (2-7, 1-6 Valley) had been riding off of 14 consecutive points. After a SIU score, SDSU (4-6, 3-4 Valley) drove to the Salukis’ 30 yard-line and called on Justin Syrovatka, who has missed short kicks over the past few weeks, to kick a 47 yard field goal. With the wind, the redshirt freshman calmly knocked down the career-long kick to put the Salukis away for the final time with 2:54 left in the game.

“We live by, and hopefully this is an example, ‘You play in the present.’ If you believe in your players and you give that to them, they’ll respond. That was a big kick for him and he looked like he was walking in the park,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said.

SDSU’s usual leaders of the last few weeks did most of the legwork to put the Jacks in the position to win early in the game. Austin Sumner threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns, tossing two each to Aaron Rollin and Dale Moss, who are fast becoming one of the top receiving combos in SDSU history. Each of the receivers had five catches and Moss went for 139 yards and Rollin had 133 receiving yards, leading to their second straight victory.

That victory did not come without another stomach-turning sequence from the Jackrabbits. After leading 35-14 at halftime, SDSU had a three and out possession, a reverse pass by Rollin that was intercepted and was immediately followed by a 56-yard touchdown run by former Iowa Hawkeye Jewel Hampton to cut the lead to 14. The Salukis would pull within seven points and SDSU would continue to sputter until going on a six-play, 80 yard drive for Clare’s touchdown.

“We knew we would have a chance to get a few scores in the third quarter,” SIU head coach Dale Lennon said after his team suffered its sixth straight loss of the season. “Things happen that you just can’t explain why they happen and we’ve been on the wrong end a lot.”

Hampton would finish the game with a career-high 167 yards and two touchdowns, staking claim to the best rushing game of the day. Tyrel Kool had an early touchdown and Zach Zenner, who made his second consecutive start, had 59 yards on 14 carries, capping what was a serviceable but not stellar day for the rushing game.

Sumner had little issue throwing the ball despite winds gusting more than 30 mph, validating the Jacks’ passing game against the conference’s best pass defense.

“We were kinda prepared for it. We just went out and executed the gameplan,” Sumner said.

“We were excited about that,” Stiegelmeier said of his passing game. “We would like to run the ball better but our fat guys did a good job and Austin hung in there and we have good receivers.”

A victory over Western Illinois on Saturday would put the Jacks at 5-6 for the season, the exact same mark they had a year ago. That number, given the way the season has unfolded for SDSU and how the Jacks could finish the season on a three-game winning streak, would at least make the end of the 2011 season easier to ingest.