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Samuel era begins with win
Southesast posted a 38-13 victory with four touchdowns in the second half.
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- A big second half allowed Southeast Missouri State to post its first season-opening win since 2002 and hand Tony Samuel a victory in his debut as the Redhawks' head coach.
No surprise, then, that there were plenty of smiles in the Southeast corner Saturday night after the Redhawks defeated host Austin Peay 38-13.
"It's a great feeling to win the first game and give coach Samuel and all the other new coaches their first win," senior quarterback Kevin Ballatore said.
Added senior defensive end Edgar Jones: "Hopefully there will be a lot more."
For a while Saturday, it appeared the Redhawks might be in danger of suffering an upset loss at the hands of the Governors, who returned to scholarship football this year. They are only operating at about the half-scholarship level right now and feature 51 freshmen on their 84-man roster.
The Govs came out fired up in front of more than 5,000 enthusiastic fans and hung right with the Redhawks for a half. It was 10-10 at the intermission as Southeast never led during the opening two quarters.
"I thought we came out tight in the first half and didn't perform like we needed to," Samuel said. "And I thought Austin Peay did a real good job of putting us on our heels. But we settled down and picked it up in the second half. I really liked the effort in the second half."
And the results. The Redhawks used their defense -- keyed by Jones and junior linebacker Adam Casper -- to turn things around early in the third quarter.
Jones had a tackle for loss and a sack on Austin Peay's first two offensive plays of the second half. With the Govs facing a third-and-long, sophomore safety Kendall Magana intercepted Mark Cunningham's pass along the sideline at the Southeast 47-yard line.
The Redhawks ground out 53 yards in eight plays, with sophomore tailback Tim Holloman gaining 38 of the yards, including a 2-yard touchdown with 9:09 remaining to give Southeast its first lead of the night, 17-10.
Less than 40 seconds later, the Redhawks were in the end zone again, thanks to Jones and Casper.
Jones sacked Cunningham at the Austin Peay 16. As the quarterback was going down, he lost the ball, which popped right to Casper, who rambled untouched to the end zone with 8:30 remaining in the third quarter.
All of a sudden it was 24-10.
"Edgar made a great play and I was just in the right place at the right time," Casper said.
Said Samuel: "A defensive touchdown tends to ignite you."
Casper made another key play minutes later when he nailed Austin Peay tailback Chris Fletcher for a 2-yard loss on third-and-goal from the Southeast 2. The Govs settled for a field goal.
Southeast iced the victory with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns as two more tailbacks got into the mix.
Senior John Radney's 5-yard burst with 8:20 left made it 31-13, and redshirt freshman Tony Anderson went over from 13 yards out with 4 minutes remaining to end the scoring and cap a 28-3 second-half advantage for the Redhawks.
"In the first half I think we were too anxious to play," Jones said. "Coach gave us a challenge at halftime. He just told us to calm down and play."
Added Casper: "Austin Peay came out really fired up, but I think it woke us up in the second half."
One of the first-half highlights for the Redhawks was a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ballatore to senior wide receiver Oge Oge with 6:13 left in the second quarter that pulled Southeast into a 10-10 deadlock.
It capped a three-play, 75-yard drive that featured all passes.
Ballatore completed 14 of 20 for 180 yards and no interceptions on the night.
"We had a slow start. Everyone was excited and I think we were tight. Plus they came out fired up," Ballatore said. "But we settled down and got it going."
After having a slim edge in total yardage in the first half -- 180 to 174 -- the Redhawks wound up outgaining the Govs 358 to 241. And Southeast had no turnovers in the game.
"We've got a long way to go, but this is a good start," Ballatore said.