SIU’s long wait pays off as Salukis will face MVFC foe South Dakota in playoff opener
today at 12:59 pm
The waiting game lasted as long as ESPNU could allow Sunday morning for the Southern Illinois football team.
The Salukis were the last playoff matchup announced on the televised playoff pairings show, ensuring SIU (7-4) made the FCS postseason for the second consecutive season. SIU also earned a playoff spot during the spring COVID season.
SIU was the 23rd team unveiled as a playoff participant in the 24-team field. The Salukis will face a familiar foe in fellow Missouri Valley Football Conference member South Dakota (7-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPN-Plus in Vermillion, S.D.
The two teams did not play each other this fall.
The first-round winner advances to face No. 2 seed and MVFC champion North Dakota State (10-1).
FCS playoff committee chairman Thorr Bjorn, the athletic director at Rhode Island, revealed that SIU and MVFC member Northern Iowa (6-5) were the last two teams chosen. He added that the MVFC’s rugged league schedule was a tipping point.
“We spent a lot of time on those particular areas,” Bjorn told ESPNU of the final two teams in the field and choosing the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds. “We feel good about how it all played out.”
In all, six MVFC teams were selected, while five from the Big Sky Conference made the field.
“The Valley had a great, great year. It (speaks to) the strength of those particular leagues,” Bjorn said. “The way they took care of business, you just couldn’t keep any of them out.”
The last time SIU faced South Dakota was on Oct. 26, 2019, when the Salukis won a 48-28 road decision. That day, the Salukis rushed for 334 yards and got four rushing touchdowns from Javon Williams Jr.
Avante Cox scored three times for the Salukis in the game and compiled 113 receiving yards and 80 rushing yards.
Bjorn noted that UNI made the field based on three wins against teams that made the playoff field. SIU went 1-2 against playoff qualifiers, with a win against South Dakota State and losses to UNI and Missouri State.
The Salukis struggled down the stretch, finishing 1-3 to end the season, including Saturday’s 35-18 home loss to three-win Youngstown State.