CARBONDALE, Ill. - Western Illinois closed out the 2012 season dropping a 35-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference decision at Southern Illinois on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 17). The Leathernecks (3-8 overall, 1-7 MVFC) ended on a six-game losing streak, all in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
Both teams played to a scoreless tie in the first quarter. At the start of the second quarter, Western's defense stopped Southern on 3rd-and-inches at the goal line. However, on fourth and an inch quarterback Kory Faulkner faked the handoff and rolled right into the endzone. That capped a 10-play drive for the Salukis and a 7-0 lead.
Hayden Northern dropped back to pass on third down. His pass was tipped at the line by Kevin Reed, he came down with the interception and raced 18 yards for a touchdown. That put the Salukis ahead 14-0 with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Theon Dixon recorded his second interception of the year later in the quarter, giving Western the ball near midfield. The Leathernecks drove to the SIU 32, but came up short on third and fourth, turning the ball over on downs.
Once again the defense came up big. On third down, Luke Venegoni forced a fumble on Faulkner, and Ryan Demming recovered on the Saluki 34. However, three incomplete passes forced another Pat Smith punt and SIU closed out the half.
Western was forced to punt on its opening drive. Southern drove 65 yards on seven plays, including a conversion on 4th-and-1 from the nine, capped by a Mika'il McCall 1-yard run. On their next drive Faulkner hit David Lewis for a 19-yard TD and 28-0 lead.
One punt after tying the season record, Smith had his next attempt blocked. SIU recovered on the five, and two plays later A.J. Hill completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Rik Hicks.
For the second time in three games Western was held scoreless. The Saluki defense held Western to 142 total yards while gaining 307.
"I am proud to say this Leatherneck team, and all Leatherneck teams I've been associated with in my 14 years, the effort has never been questioned and it was not questioned today," said head coach Mark Hendrickson. "I know this group of seniors is very disappointed. I know they are going to encourage the underclassmen to prepare and come back and get after it Leatherneck style for next fall... We did have a lot of players step up and get experience as younger players. We did have the eight true-freshman take a lot of snaps throughout the season. I know this is a very disappointed group of Leathernecks in the locker room but I also know after Thanksgiving Break, the underclassmen are going to come back and be ready to get to work."
For the second straight game, Jonathon Rollins led the team in tackles finishing with 10. It was the second straight game in double-digits and third time this year for the sophomore defensive back. He finished with 87 tackles on the year.
Raffelson finished with seven tackles and closed out the season surpassing 100. He became the first Leatherneck freshman to lead the team in tackles in the NCAA Division I era totaling 105.
Venegoni had six tackles and a sack to go with his forced fumble. Martinez Davis also had a sack and two tackles for a loss along with a pass break-up.
Northern went out late in the first half with an injury. He closed out his final game as a true-freshman completing 9-of-19 passes for 92 yards and an interception. Wil Lunt went 4-of-11 passing for 33 yards. Caulton Ray totaled 26 yards on the ground while Nikko Watson added 23. Fredson Salomon caught four passes for 52 yards.
Smith finished with 11 punts, averaging 38.5 yards. He set the season record with 84, surpassing Jeff Baker's record of 83 from 1998. The junior kicker however did finish the year perfect in kicks, going 10-of-10 in field goals and 11-of-11 in extra points.
GAME NOTES: As senior co-captain Kieron James missed his fourth straight game with an injury, that left Western with two captains of the five and 13 seniors playing in their final game today... For the second straight year, Western ended the season on a six-game losing streak... Demming's fumble recovery was the second of his career, and first since 2010... Salomon's final kickoff return went for 39 yards, a team season-high... For the fourth time in the last five games Western's offense failed to gain more than 175 yards of total offense and sixth straight contest of under 265 total yards... Western finished with 29:19 in time of possession to Southern's 30:41... The defense held Southern to 4-of-13 on third down conversions.