Siena Heights University backup quarterback Nick Gilliam knows he's always one play away from a call to duty, but he didn't expect to get a tap on the shoulder two minutes before kick-off.
The redshirt sophomore none-the-less completed 20 of 34 passes for 362 yards and a school record five touchdown passes to spoil opening day at Lindenwood University-Belleville.
Siena Heights drubbed LU-B 45-20.
Siena Heights all-conference starter Travis Zajkowski injured his throwing hand in pre-game warmups and spent the rest of the day on the sideline in shorts with a bag of ice taped to it. Siena coach Jim Lyall said the extent of the injury won't be clear pending an X-ray, but that it was "very swollen" by game's end.
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Gilliam, meanwhile, had seen enough action last season to feel comfortable leading the offense on even on short notice. The Saints were Mid-States Football Association co-champions in 2014.
"It's stressed all the time to the backups that we have to be ready to go," said Gilliam, who completed touchdown passes to four different receivers. "We have enough weapons in the skill positions, too, where I felt like I could come in and put them in a position to make plays."
Lindenwood-Belleville first-year starting quarterback Tarean Austin completed 11 of 37 attempts for 102 yards. He also ran for both LU-B touchdowns, but a third-quarter interception led to a Siena Heights score.
"We need to be a little better in our release to the outside, we have to be a little better in our timing, and in our protection," Carlson said. "It's easy to look at that, but we need to be better in our execution all around."
Austin scored on a 10-yard keeper to pull the Lynx within a touchdown at the 12:11 mark of the second quarter. The Lynx defense then held the Saints without a first down on their next three possessions and had them pinned to a third-and-9 on their own 28 with less than two minutes left in the half.
But Aaron Doroit wrestled a reception away from LU-B defensive back Mike Averill (Triad H.S.) for a 47-yard reception and first down at the Lynx 35. The catch set up a field goal by Zachary Flack to stretch the Siena lead to 17-7 going into the half.
Siena Heights went on to score 28 unanswered points in the third quarter, including a late safety on a bad snap to the LU-B punter, a consistent problem for the Lynx throughout the game.
"You can't point the finger at anybody on that catch because their guy just made a great play," Carlson said. "I was actually happy that our defense made a stand to hold them to three points, but you have to come out stronger in the second half. We were kind of flat and let the game get away. That's on me and the coaches."
Doroit caught five passes for a school record 165 yards. He also had a pair of touchdowns. Reggie Blackmon, Curtis Smith Jr. and Damon Wright also had touchdown receptions.
Austin led LU-B on the ground with 62 yards on nine carries. Running back Kam Harris (Althoff H.S.) had 45 yards on 18 carries. He also was the Lynx’s' top receiver with 43 yards on three catches, including a game-long 26 yard reception.
SHU (10:18): Gilliam 31-yard pass to Smith, PAT - 7-0 SHU
SHU (3:40): Gilliam 9-yard pass to Wright, PAT - 14-0 SHU
LUB (12:11): Austin 10-yard keeper, PAT - 14-7 SU
SHU (:28): Flack 25-yard FG - 17-7 SHU
SHU (13:12): Gilliam 34-yard pass to Doriot, PAT missed - 23-7 SHU
SHU (9:53): McIntosh 5-yard run, PAT - 30-7 SHU
SHU (4:28): Gilliam 45-yard pass to Blackmon, PAT blocked - 36-7 SHU
SHU (2:06): Gilliam 32-yard pass to Doroit, PAT - 43-7 SHU
SHU (:45.4): Safety on bad long snap. 45-7 SHU
LUB (11:17): Austin 15-yard run, PAT - 45-14 SHU
LUB (1:56): Jahleel Griffin 4-yard run, PAT blocked - 45-20 SHU
LU-B COACH DALE CARLSON SAID
"I'm not going to take anything away from Siena Heights because they have a very good football team. But we extended two drives with penalites in the first half, had the interception that they were able to turn into points, and then the safety. If you give away 23 points to a team like that you're going to get beat. The thing that most disappoints me is that we played with a lack of discipline. I'm sure when we look on film, we'll see seven or eight guys on every play doing what they are supposed to do, but you need 11 guys executing. That's got to change."
SHU COACH JIM LYALL
"I don't know how hot it got out there, but these are tough conditions to play in. I'm very proud of our guys for going out and executing on a day when your focus is easily challenged.
LU-B travels next week to Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) for a 7 p.m. game; Siena Heights opens its home schedule against Missouri Baptist at noon.