Southern Illinois Football wins season opener over Austin Peay

Southern Ill. University home opener against Austin Peay.
Published: Sep. 3, 2023 at 8:19 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2023 at 9:17 AM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - The Southern Illinois football team started the 2023 season with a win at home on Saturday night.

The Salukis defeated Austin Peay 49-23 in front of a crowd of over 8,000 at Saluki Stadium.

SIU dominated the first half. Three red zone touchdowns on offense followed by a 26-yard interception return for a score by Dune Smith gave the Salukis a 28-0 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter Southern Illinois’ passing game caught fire. Quarterback Nic Baker connected with Jaelin Benefield on a 54-yard touchdown as well as Izaiah Hartrup from 31 yards out.

Baker completed 16 of 23 total passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns. His second completion of the game broke the school record for most in a career by a Southern Illinois player with 560.

With SIU holding a 42-3 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, head coach Nick Hill rested the majority of the starting offense and defense during the final 15 minutes.

Hill also said the game ball was given to defensive coordinator Antonio James after the Southern Illinois defense held Austin Peay to 39 yards rushing, didn’t allow a first down until the second quarter, and forced three turnovers.

Saturday against the Governors was James’ first game as defensive coordinator after he took over the role on Aug. 1, one day before SIU’s training camp started.

Next up for Southern Illinois is a road trip to in-state rival Northern Illinois on Aug. 9 at 2:30 p.m.