Redhawks eliminate turnovers, punt woes

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Southeast has fixed some problems that loomed large last season.

Last year Southeast Missouri State ranked in the bottom half of the Ohio Valley Conference in turnover margin.

And, despite having the league's top punter, six blocked kicks and a shoddy performance on returns by the opposition placed the Redhawks next-to-last in OVC net punting.

While the season is only two games old and Southeast has yet to play an OVC contest, the Redhawks have so far showed marked improvement in the above categories.

Southeast (2-0) is the only conference team to have not yet committed a turnover, while the Redhawks have forced seven turnovers, with five interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

The Redhawks lead the league and rank fourth nationally among 114 Division I-AA teams in turnover margin at 3.5 per game. They are one of just five squads to have not yet committed a turnover.

The Redhawks also top the OVC -- and the nation -- in net punting with a 43.4-yard average.

Speaking at his weekly media briefing Monday, first-year coach Tony Samuel said Southeast's success so far in the turnover area is partly by design and partly because of the Redhawks' style of play.

Defensively, Samuel said, "That's our style. We want to ballhawk the ball."

As far as not turning the ball over themselves, Samuel said, "There is emphasis there. And if you look at us offensively, we're a little on the conservative side. The type of style you're running, you hope that [lack of turnovers] happens."

Last year Southeast was sixth in the nine-team OVC in turnover margin at minus 0.36 per game, with 24 turnovers forced and 28 committed.

In the punting department, senior David Simonhoff leads the OVC and is second nationally with an average of 45.7 yards, and he has placed six of his nine kicks inside the 20-yard line. Only two punts have been returned against the Redhawks, for zero yards.

Simonhoff also had a strong individual season last year, averaging 42.8 yards to lead the OVC. But the aforementioned problems resulted in a net punting average of 31.9 yards, which was eighth in the conference.

While acknowledging the Redhawks' improvement in that area, a cautious Samuel said, "We still have to continue to improve."

Regarding areas that plagued Southeast in 2005 and Samuel wanted to clean up, the Redhawks still have had some problems with penalties in the first two games.

After being by far the OVC's most penalized team last year in both number of infractions and yardage, Southeast currently ranks eighth in yardage penalized with 89.5 per contest.

Hurting the cause was Saturday's 11 penalties for 114 yards during a 44-23 win over Missouri-Rolla. Several infractions came on late hits that Samuel said, after looking at film, were close. And 10 yards were due to Southeast twice trying to draw the Miners offsides on fourth-and-short near midfield, then taking delay of game instead of calling timeout.

"There were still too many penalties, but other factors are involved," Samuel said.

While the Redhawks are 2-0 for the first time since 2002 -- they have outscored Austin Peay and Division II Missouri-Rolla by a combined 82-36 -- Samuel knows Southeast will have to be at the top of its game in most areas during Saturday's OVC opener at Jacksonville State (0-1).

"We have to really polish up because we're playing against better athletes," Samuel said.

National rankings

No doubt thanks in large part to the relatively cushy early schedule, Southeast ranks high nationally in numerous individual and team statistics.

Senior defensive end Edgar Jones is tied for first in quarterback sacks with five and leads in tackles for loss with 6.5. Jones tops the OVC in both categories.

Sophomore tailback Tim Holloman leads the OVC and is tied for fourth nationally in rushing with 246 yards.

Senior tailback John Radney leads the league and is tied for eighth nationally in scoring with 24 points on four touchdowns.

As a team, the Redhawks are tied for ninth in scoring offense (41 points per game), are 12th in rushing offense (240.5 yards per game) and are 17th in rushing defense (75.5 yards per game). They lead the OVC in all three departments.

Noteworthy

* Saturday's game at Jacksonville State will be televised live on Charter Sports Southeast, a 24-hour regional sports network based in Atlanta that serves approximately 4.5 million cable subscribers across 11 southeastern states.

CSS is not available to cable subscribers in Missouri.

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