Redhawks spent bye week trying to reduce turnovers, penalties

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Southeast Missouri State coach Tim Billings hopes the Redhawks' bye week has helped rejuvenate them as they try to salvage something out of what has so far been a dismal season.

The Redhawks (0-6, 0-3 Ohio Valley Conference) resume play Saturday when they visit Eastern Kentucky (3-4, 3-1).

"We gave them [the players] the weekend off. They came back last night, and they seem to be ready to go," Billings said during his weekly media conference Monday.

Billings said the Redhawks did considerable scrimmaging during last week's practices, trying to clean up two areas that have plagued them all season -- turnovers and penalties.

Southeast is tied for seventh in the nine-team OVC in turnover margin at minus-10, with 22 interceptions and lost fumbles, compared to 12 turnovers gained.

The Redhawks lead the conference in most penalties (57) and most penalty yardage (517).

"We really worked hard" in those areas, Billings said. "It [the bye week] came at a good time. It gave us an opportunity to work on some things and get some guys healthy."

Trying to find a silver lining, Billings emphasized that the Redhawks still have more than half of their OVC schedule remaining -- five games -- and, after facing Eastern Kentucky, they play several teams mired toward the bottom of the standings.

Including Eastern Kentucky, Southeast's first four OVC opponents have a combined conference record of 11-4. The Redhawks' final four opponents have a cumulative league mark of 4-8.

"The teams we play down the stretch, a lot of them have been struggling," said Billings, whose squad is tied for last place with future opponent Murray State. "Down the stretch, if we play well and take care of the football, we can play with these guys.

"A lot of teams are struggling in the OVC. Hopefully we'll have the opportunity to win some games."

Even Eastern Kentucky showed a chink in its armor Saturday by suffering its first OVC loss, a 53-22 thrashing at Eastern Illinois that knocked the Colonels out of first place -- although that might not be such a good thing for the Redhawks.

"Their backs are against the wall. They need to win out," Billings said. "We'll probably get their best shot."

Quarterback still undecided

Billings said he hasn't decided who his starting quarterback will be at Eastern Kentucky, although there is a good chance that true freshman Markus Mosley and senior Mike Haley will both see action.

Mosley made his first collegiate start on Oct. 8 against Eastern Illinois, but he struggled as the Redhawks trailed 48-10 early in the fourth quarter.

Haley, who started four of the season's first five games, replaced Mosley and was impressive in directing two long touchdown drives -- although it came against primarily reserve defenders -- during an eventual 48-24 loss.

Mosley and Haley split time in practice last week, which will also be the case this week, Billings said.

"They both have things they do better than the other one," Billings said. "We're still evaluating that. I'm not sure who's going to start. It might be a situation where we play them both."

Junior quarterback Kevin Ballatore, who made his first Southeast start Sept. 24 against Jacksonville State but suffered a broken left foot early in the third quarter, is still not ready to return to action.

Noteworthy

* Junior All-American punter David Simonhoff, who got off to a slow start this season, has come on in recent weeks and now ranks fifth nationally with an average of 42.9 yards per punt, which also leads the OVC.

Last year, Simonhoff was second nationally with a 46-yard average, which set school and OVC records.

* Billings said sophomore linebacker Adam Casper, an Anna-Jonesboro (Ill.) High School product who played fullback last year, will probably make his first collegiate start Saturday.

Casper would take the spot of Travion Brock, who is injured and is questionable for Eastern Kentucky. Casper has seen increased action in recent weeks, and he is coming off a career-high eight tackles against Eastern Illinois.

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