Cox, Southern Illinois knock off S. Dakota in FCS playoffs

VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — Avante Cox had a career-high 10 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown, Romeir Elliott scored on a 5-yard run midway through the fourth quarter and Southern Illinois beat South Dakota 22-10 on Saturday night in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

Southern Illinois improved to 4-3 all-time against the Coyotes. Despite both teams being in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the programs hadn’t faced off since the Salukis won 48-28 at South Dakota in 2019.

The Salukis (8-4), ranked No. 23 in the FCS coaches poll, plays at third-ranked and No. 2 seed North Dakota State — another MVC member — next Saturday. Southern Illinois won its last meeting with the Bison 38-14 on Feb. 27, ending NDSU’s 39-game win streak.

Southern Illinois scored on drives of 14, 15 and 16 plays in the first half to take a 13-0 lead into the break. Nico Gualdoni made a 50-yard field goal to cap a 30-yard drive and open the scoring midway through the first quarter, an 85-yard drive culminated when Cox caught a wide-open 4-yard TD pass with 8:04 left in the second quarter and the Salukis marched 83 yards before Gualdoni kicked a 26-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

SIU’s Qua Brown, a sixth-year senior who went into the game with two career interceptions, picked off two passes in Salukis territory. On the opening possession, Carson Camp sailed a pass over the middle intended for Caleb Vander Esch that Brown intercepted at the 26 and Brown undercut a back-shoulder pass at the 1 to preserve a 16-3 lead late in the third quarter.

Camp, who went into the game having thrown just four interceptions this season, was picked off a third time when Clayton Bush intercepted a pass on third-and-17 with 5:29 to play. The No. 20 South Dakota (7-5) defense forced the Salukis to go three-and-out. Camp then scrambled 29 yards on third-and-8 to the Southern Illinois 31 but Dorian Davis punched out the ball and PJ Jules recovered for the Salukis with 2:29 left to seal it.

Camp was 19-of-31 passing for 202 yards.

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