Jacks fall out of conference chase with loss to Salukis

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

Down by three, with less than a minute remaining, the Jacks stood 27 yards away from its goal line and were confident that scoring was a strong possibility.

Southern Illinois ended that possibility when cornerback James Wheeler intercepted a pass from Jacks senior Ryan Berry. Berry, who is so far statistically the best quarterback in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, had positive thinking late in the game.

“We had no doubt that we were going to go down and score a touchdown,” Berry said. “We didn’t want to settle for a field goal. We were just trying to be aggressive. We knew we had a ton of time left. Over the past few years it seems like we’ve kind of had a knack for the drama at the end.”

The late drama did not end well for the Jacks, as Berry, who threw from an awkward position, attempted to throw the ball out-of-bounds on second and 10. While facing a blitz, Berry let the ball sail.

Wheeler made the interception and left the Jacks with a miracle chance of winning the match-up of two one-loss conference teams.

The miracle did not happen as the Jacks failed to set themselves up with a field goal or a touchdown, with only seconds left on the clock and no timeouts.

In the end, Berry completed 29 of 46 passes for 286 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Early in the game, both offenses made quick work of scoring.

The Salukis (8-2,6-1), who started the game with great field position from their kickoff, had a 54-yard drive to start the scoring.

The Jackrabbits (6-5,5-2) got the score at seven a piece in two plays, in which Berry found junior Glen Fox for a 50-yard pass.

SIU saw SDSU’s two-play drive and beat it by one.

The Salukis’ Larry Warner took the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.

“We knew their kickoff return was good and didn’t come close to executing,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “That should not happen.”

SIU increased the lead off Berry’s first interception of the game when safety Marty Rogers had a 57-yard interception return with six minutes left in the first half.

The Jacks got within seven points when Kyle Minett had his third touchdown of the season via a 3-yard pass.

Southern Illinois was 66 yards away from their end zone with less than 30 seconds left on the first-half clock. Salukis’ head coach Dale Lennon was trying to score three points on a chilly night at the campus of Southern Illinois University. Sixty-one yards later, SIU was thinking six.

Sophomore quarterback Chris Dieker threw a shovel-pass to Larry Warner. Warner took the short pass all the way to the 14-yard line. A personal foul on Jacks’ defensive back Cole Brodie gave the Salukis the ball at the 7-yard line.

Both Stiegelmeier and safety Conrad Kjerstad (who had a key interception in the game) said that stupid penalties hurt the team and are “unacceptable.”

SIU scored at the end of the half, and the Jacks ended the half 35-21.

Even though the Jacks scored 14 unanswered points in the second half, the Salukis’ still got the points they needed. SIU got a clutch 28-yard field goal from Kyle Dougherty to give Southern Illinois the lead and victory.

Stiegelmeier summed up the season based on a single occurrence.

“It’s one play, really. In the end, it’s one play,” he said. “Is it tough? It’s tremendously tough. Is it the end of the world? Not even close.”

Up next for the Jackrabbits are the Bison for the 2008 Dakota Marker contest on Nov. 22 at 6 p.m.

The “1-0 motto,” which the Jacks have for every week, will come in handy for the border-rivalry match-up.