Redhawks try to steal another win from EKU

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Southeast won in 2002 and 2003 at Eastern Kentucky, where the Colonels have lost just 37 times in 36 seasons.

Recent history tells Eastern Kentucky coach Danny Hope that his Colonels should not take winless Southeast Missouri State lightly.

Hopes knows that another slip-up at home against the Redhawks (0-6, 0-3 Ohio Valley Conference) could cost the Colonels (3-4, 3-1) any chance of winning the OVC championship.

"We'll have to be ready to play to keep our chances of an OVC title alive," Hope said.

Southeast and EKU square off at 5:30 p.m. today in Richmond, Ky. The Colonels have lost just 37 home games since 1969 -- but two of those defeats came against the Redhawks in the last three years.

Southeast upset the Colonels during Roy Kidd's final season in 2002 -- EKU's legendary coach, after which the Colonels' stadium is now named, retired that year -- and also prevailed in 2003 during Hope's first season coaching his alma matter.

"We take a lot of pride in playing at Roy Kidd Stadium. They've beaten us the last two times," Hope said. "Obviously we're going to bring it to their [his players'] attention."

Those two games represent Southeast's only victories over EKU in 15 tries -- the Colonels won last year's meeting 38-13 in Cape Girardeau -- and coach Tim Billings believes they also represent some hope for the Redhawks.

"We've probably got the best record of any team in that stadium other than Eastern Kentucky," Billings said earlier this week. "It's something we'll talk about.

"That's a place where nobody wins. They've got such a great tradition and a tremendous atmosphere. A lot of teams in our conference go there and don't play well. We have. Sure, we'll use that."

Of course, Southeast's two teams that won at EKU also represent two of the program's top squads in recent history.

In 2002, Southeast went 8-4 for its winningest season since 1969. In 2003, a loss in the final game prevented Southeast from capturing the OVC title and earning the program's first playoff berth on any level.

Southeast so far has been well off the pace of those two teams, but Billings believes if the Redhawks can simply cut down on their turnovers -- they are minus-10 in that department -- they'll have a chance to stay with the Colonels.

"We really worked on that [during Southeast's bye week]," Billings said. "You can't turn the ball over like we have and have a chance to beat anybody, especially a good team."

Billings said late in the week that he still had not decided on his starting quarterback, although senior Mike Haley appeared to have the edge. Billings said both Haley and freshman Markus Mosley are likely to see action.

"I think they both have done well [during practice]," Billings said. "They both do certain things better than the other one does."

Southeast's defense, which is statistically vastly improved over last season -- the Redhawks rank third in the OVC in total defense, allowing 379.7 yards per game, which is more than 100 yards less than 2004 -- will face arguably the league's top quarterback today.

EKU sophomore Josh Greco, after struggling as a freshman last year, leads the OVC in passing yardage (1,936), total offense (2,002 yards) and touchdown passes (17), although he has 11 interceptions, which is tied with Haley for the most in the conference.

"I think he's a heck of a football player," Hope said. "He's made a big impact for us on both sides of the ball. We were limited last year what we could do. He brings a lot of firepower to our offense, allows us to be two-dimensional."

Greco, who also leads the OVC in passing efficiency, has completed 58.4 percent of his attempts (156 of 257). Three EKU receivers have caught at least 30 passes, led by Andre Ralston (41 receptions, 18.2-yard average).

"He has really developed," Billings said of Greco.

Greco threw for 398 yards last Saturday against Eastern Illinois, completing 39 of an OVC-record 71 attempts. But five turnovers helped the Panthers hand EKU its first conference loss, 53-22.

The Colonels cannot afford another defeat if they have any realistic chance of at least gaining a share of the OVC championship -- which means they surely won't take the Redhawks lightly.

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

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