VERMILLION, S.D.—Seventh-ranked South Dakota ran two interceptions back for touchdowns and forced five turnovers in all in shutting out Southern Illinois 42-0 Saturday inside the DakotaDome.
The win gives the Coyotes (7-1, 4-1 MVFC) their most victories at the Division I level and inside Valley play. South Dakota, responding from a loss for the first time all season, improved to 4-0 at home and remain one game back of North Dakota State in the conference standings.
The game was billed as a battle between the Valley’s top two quarterbacks, but that narrative was quickly erased when both starters were injured in the first half and did not return. South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler was injured near the goal line on the first series of the game. Southern Illinois’ Sam Straub was removed early in the second quarter.
Austin Simmons replaced Streveler and finished the opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brett Samson on third down. The Coyotes skipped 87 yards in nine plays on drive two and scored on a 1-yard dive by Kai Henry. South Dakota outgained SIU 134-32 in the opening quarter.
A fumble forced by USD defensive end Nick Kramer and scooped up by safety Ben Garlock set up the third touchdown of the first half. Simmons connected with Alonge Brooks down the right sideline for a 17-yard touchdown strike that extended the lead to 21-0. It was the fourth touchdown grab of the season for Brooks.
Between Straub and backup Tanner Hearn, the Salukis (4-4, 2-3) netted 110 yards in the first half and possessed the ball for less than 12 minutes. Hearn passed for 207 in the second half, but the Coyotes took full advantage of his mistakes. He didn’t see South Dakota safety Andrew Gray sitting on a slant pattern near the goal line. Gray made the play and scurried 97 yards for a touchdown – the longest interception return in program history, and the program’s first pick-six since 2013. It made the score 28-0 with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
South Dakota safety Mike Johnson cut in front of a Hearn pass and raced 79 yards for the final blow of the game with 3:29 remaining. Hearn finished 14 of 33 for 231 yards and four interceptions. He was also sacked three times. Saluki quarterbacks had been sacked three times all season entering the weekend.
Simmons finished 11 of 18 for 91 yards in his first extended action since leading South Dakota to a win against Illinois State last season in Vermillion. The Coyotes ran 49 times for 177 yards and two scores. Mike Fredrick led the way with 19 carries for a season-high 94 yards including a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:39 to go. Henry had 73 yards on 17 totes and Ben Klett added 18 yards on eight tries.
South Dakota competed without starting cornerbacks Adam Harris and Danny Rambo, but got noteworthy performances from the position nonetheless. Junior Isaac Armstead earned his first collegiate interception and finished with six solo tackles. On the other side, Mark Collins had two tackles, one for loss, and was credited with four pass breakups. Junior Brandon Colpitts also grabbed his first collegiate interception.
November greets South Dakota with three consecutive ranked teams. First up is next weekend’s road trip to Cedar Falls to face No. 25 Northern Iowa (4-4, 3-2), which lost 30-14 at No. 2 North Dakota State Saturday. Kickoff from UNI-Dome is set for 1 p.m.