Billings wary of reaction to painful EKU loss

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Southeast coach hopes his winless team can find the positive in Saturday's heartbreaking loss.

As pleased as Tim Billings was by Southeast Missouri State's performance at Eastern Kentucky Saturday night, the coach is concerned about his players being able to shake off the last-second loss.

If they can accomplish that, then Billings believes the winless Redhawks have a solid opportunity to finish the season strong.

"It's a big question, if we can [bounce back] or not," Billings said during his weekly media conference Monday. "We played well ... we can use that as a springboard."

But, added Billings, "Our kids were really discouraged, as down as any game this year. How we bounce back ... there are only two ways it's going to go, up or down. It's an opportunity for a big upside."

Following the 33-32 loss, several players said the game will serve the Redhawks (0-7, 0-4 Ohio Valley Conference) well as they approach the season's final four games, beginning with Saturday's homecoming contest against Murray State (1-6, 0-4).

"It's really disappointing, but we just have to keep our heads up," said senior defensive end Justin Komondoreas, who led Southeast's defense with two quarterback sacks, including one for a safety. "As good as we played, this will definitely motivate us."

Said senior wide receiver T.J. Milcic, "It was by far our best game of the season. It hurts to lose, but we know if we can keep playing like this, then we can beat everybody left on our schedule."

Billings concurred, saying, "If we play like that, we can play with anybody in the league."

Particularly if the Redhawks can continue avoiding the turnover bug that plagued them through the first six games. Southeast had its first turnover-free performance of the season on Saturday.

"The biggest thing is, we didn't turn the ball over," senior quarterback Mike Haley said. "When we don't turn it over, we have a chance to win."

Ballatore getting closer

Junior quarterback Kevin Ballatore, who suffered a broken foot while making his first start against Jacksonville State on Sept. 24, is getting closer to returning to action.

Ballatore is scheduled for a doctor's visit today that could clear him for a return to the field, although the likelihood of him being available for Murray State is "50-50 at best," Billings said.

Not that Ballatore would necessarily see action Saturday even if he is cleared by the doctor, because Haley has once again solidified himself as Southeast's starter after his best performance of the season at Eastern Kentucky.

"Absolutely, Mike will start. I thought he really managed the game well," Billings said. "But you'd like to have Kevin ready just in case."

Moving up the charts

Saturday's strong performance by Komondoreas has lifted him to the second-most quarterback sacks (3.5) in the OVC, although he is officially tied for sixth because five players are tied for first with four sacks, including Southeast junior defensive end Edgar Jones.

Komondoreas is tied for second in tackles for loss (7.5).

"He had a great game," Billings said.

In addition to Jones, other Southeast players leading OVC statistical categories are redshirt freshman kicker Colin Schermann, sophomore cornerback Monroe Hicks and junior punter David Simonhoff.

Schermann, from Central High School, is first in field goals and field-goal percentage as he has made nine of 10 attempts.

Hicks, another Central High School product, is first in passes defended with 10 (two intercepted, eight broken up), while Simonhoff leads in punting with a 41.9-yard average.

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