CARBONDALE — Illinois State football coach Brock Spack will wake up Sunday morning fervently hoping Saturday at Saluki Stadium was merely a really, really bad dream.
It was not.
Hoping to bounce back from last week's first loss of the season, the Redbirds fell flat in many and varied ways that did not seem possible while 15th-ranked ISU was winning its first four games.
Southern Illinois extended the tentacles of its dominance to all aspects while pounding ISU, 42-7, in Missouri Valley Football Conference action before a homecoming crowd of 8,121.
"Today was a complete abomination," Redbird coach Brock Spack said. "It's amazing what two weeks have done. Two weeks ago we were riding high. We were top 10 (nationally). Now we got our butts kicked twice."
Southern (3-3, 1-2 in the Valley) wasted no time seizing control. A five-play, 70-yard opening drive consumed just two minutes and ended with a 21-yard pass from Sam Straub to D.J. Davis.
"We needed to get him (Straub) into a rhythm, find him some space. We needed to create space for our playmakers," said Saluki coach Nick Hill. "When you spread the field and you've got good playmakers, it's tough for them to cover everything."
ISU (4-2, 2-1) then moved to the Southern 28-yard line before quarterback Jake Kolbe was intercepted.
The Redbirds would finish with five turnovers (three interceptions, two lost fumbles) to none for the Salukis in ISU's worst loss to Southern since 1980.
"We're not going to panic, but there are things we need to do," Spack said. "It's obvious something is broke and we've got to figure it out and get the right guys in the right positions. We're not coaching very well, and we're not playing very well."
The Salukis scored second-quarter touchdowns on a 3-yard forward pitch from Straub to Davis and an 11-yard pass from Straub to a wide-open Sam Bonansinga for a 21-0 halftime lead.
Southern broke the game open further on the third play of the second half when Straub connected with Raphael Leonard for a 73-yard touchdown strike behind the ISU defense.
"Long balls. We couldn't defend the long ball. We're getting run by and we're not playing the ball in the air," said Spack. "Our defense has kept us in games and won games for us. We were awful today.
"I haven't seen it that bad since 2010. It's stunning to me. We've got pretty good players back there, or I thought they were. We should be making plays and we're not."
The Redbird pass defense has coughed up nearly 800 yards the past two weeks. Straub finished 22 of 34 for 368 yards.
"They executed in all phases of the game. You've got to give credit where credit is due," ISU linebacker Brannon Barry said. "The coaches are putting us in position to be successful, and we've got to execute better. It's not one position group. We've got to play better overall."
The Redbirds extracted no points on a drive inside the enemy 10-yard line for the fourth time in the past three games.
An Artiss Henderson 38-yard run to the Saluki 5 was followed by a Markel Smith carry for no gain and three straight Kolbe incompletions.
The Redbirds finally put points on the scoreboard late in the third quarter on a 19-yard Kolbe pass to Spencer Schnell.
"They outplayed us," said Schnell, who grabbed seven passes for 74 yards. "They had more energy, played at a higher tempo. We lacked that the whole game. So they came out and put it to us."
Southern added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Cameron Walter ran 5 yards for a score with 10:10 to play. And with the game well in hand, Jonathan Mixon added a 3-yard touchdown surge with 1:18 left.
ISU played without starters in receiver Christian Gibbs (toe), punter Zach Breen (chest discomfort) and guard Jared Rients (shoulder). Antonio Hadden Jr. caught his first five college passes for 97 yards.
Kolbe completed 20 of 45 for 232 yards. Malachi Broadnax relieved Kolbe at times, tossing two passes and rushing for 23 yards.
The Salukis tacked on 181 rushing yards for a gaudy total offense mark of 549. Redbird James Robinson ran for 59 of his 81 yards in the second half.