CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Taylor University football team opened its 2014 campaign on Thursday night at NCAA Division I FCS Southern Illinois, falling 45-0 to the Salukis.
The loss moved No. 26 SIU to 12-1 in home openers since 2001, while ending Taylor's six-game win streak in season openers.
Southern Illinois returned 18 starters from its 2013 squad that went 7-5 overall and led the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 231.8 passing yards per outing but showed off a dominant rushing attack to take control early against the Trojans.
SIU's Malcolm Agnew opened the scoring with a 65 yard sprint to the end zone on the opening play from scrimmage and scored from 45 yards out on his fourth touch of the night for a 14-0 Saluki lead at the 8:16 mark of the first period.
Agnew found pay dirt once again midway into the second quarter as Southern Illinois continued to pile on. The senior running back hauled in a 62-yard catch and run down the sideline for his third score of the half and a 35-0 SIU lead with 8:02 remaining in the first half.
A Tyler Mills interception and nine-yard return to the SIU 38-yard marker gave Taylor its first offensive snap inside enemy territory with 1:04 to play in the opening half. The Trojans moved the ball to the 24-yard line after a Saluki personal foul, but back-to-back sacks ended the threat and preserved the 35-0 cushion heading to intermission.
Southern Illinois dominated the line of scrimmage throughout the first half, piling up 397 total yards of offense and rushing for 215 yards on 17 carries in the first two quarters of action. The Saluki defense was equally impressive, limiting the Trojan attack to 71 total yards on 37 plays.
Action slowed after the break with SIU sitting on its five-score lead through a scoreless third quarter and cruising to the 45-0 victory.
The Salukis ended the evening with a 546-141 edge over Taylor in total offense, behind 284 yards on the ground and 23 first downs.
Adam Sauder, Dan McKenna and Cameron Gray anchored the defense for TU, which held SIU to 149 total yards and 10 points in the second half. Sauder posted a team-leading eight tackles and hauled in one interception, while McKenna posted six hits and Gray ended with five tackles in his collegiate debut. Mills and Tim Barrett also earned takeaways for the Trojans.
TU was unable to muster much on offense, with Richardson Giordani pacing the attack with 37 yards on nine carries. Kennedy Hill also took 10 carries for 22 yards and Caleb Nicley hauled in four catches for 30 yards.
Brandon Haan led the special teams for TU by averaging 40.0 yards per punt over 10 attempts, including a 52-yard boot.
Taylor (0-1) will look to bounce back on September 6, when it heads to NCAA Division III for the 25th-Annual Wagon Wheel Game against the Anderson University Ravens. Taylor has won six-straight outings against AU, including a 58-7 victory in the 2013 season opener at New Stadium.