No Emmy nomination or wins for Indians

Monday, September 8, 2003

That's the bad thing about those live television broadcasts: There are no do-overs.

No chance to go back and fix that interception in the end zone. Or the botched snap that nearly turned into an opponent's touchdown. Or any number of misplays that combined for the sitcom that emerged from Southeast Missouri State University's loss Saturday to Southern Illinois.

For Southeast, there was no chance to bleep out the offending scenes of its first football game of the season at Houck Stadium. The thousands who watched the game on Fox Sports Net can attest to that. It's a good thing the record crowd of 11,100 fans at the stadium didn't have TV remotes in their hands -- they might have chucked them onto the field late in the fourth quarter of Southeast's 28-7 loss.

Those who packed Houck on Saturday knew all about Southeast's No. 22 national ranking, their high expectations after an 8-4 season and their prediction to win the Ohio Valley Conference. Not only was this the season Southeast would win the OVC, the league's coaches said, but this was the year Southeast's president, Dr. Kenneth Dobbins, predicted Southeast would contend for a national title.

It turns out the livestock display at the SEMO District Fair across town would have made for more exciting television.

A game like Saturday's showed 11,100 fans and a live television audience the athletic crossroad at which Southeast finds itself. Its baby steps through its first decade of Division I-AA football led to a more adult leap last year with an 8-4 season. Its win over Division I-A Middle Tennessee State was a significant milemarker in its drive toward college football respectability, and there's talk of diving into major Division I-A conferences for future opponents.

Yet as remarkable as Southeast's win was last season at Middle Tennessee, its loss Saturday was every bit as memorable.

Its offense was saddled with poor execution and was, save for a throwaway touchdown as time ran out, blanked for only the second time in 76 games. In two games, it's failed to score seven times from inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Its defense Saturday was ... well, the defense rolled out the red carpet.

And just like that, one game that should've been a blip on the season radar becomes a thunderstorm, the kind that makes you raise an eyebrow next time somebody puts "Southeast" and "championship" in the same thought.

Solutions? It'll be the hot topic this week for coach Tim Billings, who looks for a remedy in an unlikely place Saturday: Division I-A Arkansas State, respectable in a loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago and spectacular in a 63-6 defeat of Tennessee-Martin on Saturday. After Arkansas State is a string of teams - Southwest Missouri, Eastern Illinois and Samford - that haven't lost a game yet this season.

An 0-3 start? For this Southeast team? Unheard of two weeks ago. Unlikely last week. A concern today.

Sure, things can change. In fact, Southeast could win its final 10 games and the OVC title and reach the playoffs for the first time. After all, this was billed as the team that had all the potential to turn Cape Girardeau into the college football town Billings has been working toward for the past three seasons.

Until that happens, we're stuck with reruns of Saturday's game.

Jamie Hall is the sports editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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