Racers' hex prevails

Sunday, October 26, 2003

The curse of the Racers lives on for Southeast Missouri State University football.

If ever there was a year where it looked like the Indians would be able to finally break their long losing streak against Murray State, this was it.

But the struggling Racers rose up from the dead and stunned the host Indians Saturday, scoring a late touchdown and surviving a wild finish to prevail 27-24.

An announced crowd of 4,350 on a rainy, chilly night at Houck Stadium saw Southeast lose to the Racers for the 11th straight time. The Indians, who had a two-game winning streak snapped, fell to 2-6 overall and 2-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Racers improved to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the OVC as they broke a two-game losing streak.

"I don't know if it was the Murray jinx or our pitiful play," Southeast coach Tim Billings said. "We played very bad on offense and on special teams, and we were very undisciplined.

"It's a shame because we had everything to play for. We had everything in front of us. We just didn't come ready to play."

Southeast virtually gift-wrapped 14 points for the Racers as a blocked punt and a fumbled punt led to a pair of scoring drives totalling 10 yards. The Indians also were whistled for 12 penalties totaling 92 yards.

"We were confident we could finally beat Murray, but just little things, a lot of mental errors, hurt us," said Southeast tailback Bobby Dorsainvil, who rushed for 64 yards on 11 carries and scored a touchdown.

Said MSU coach Joe Pannunzio, "I'm proud. We just played with heart and our kids stuck in there."

A 25-yard Derek Kutz field goal with 9:38 left in the first quarter staked Southeast to a 3-0 lead.

Southeast broke a 3-3 tie on an 11-yard Dorsainvil run just 21 seconds into the second quarter.

Kutz -- Southeast's fill-in punter after David Simonhoff was diagnosed a few days ago with a fractured tibia that he apparently suffered several weeks ago -- was swarmed under by several Racers and the clean block gave MSU possession at Southeast's 2-yard line. Chad Cook scored on the next play for a 10-10 tie with 9:11 left before halftime. That was the score at the break.

Less than three minutes into the second half, freshman Antonio Scaife fumbled a punt and MSU recovered at the Southeast 8-yard line. On second down, Ron Lane -- who rushed for 130 yards on 34 carries -- scored from 6 yards out for a 17-10 MSU lead.

Then came a play that looked like it might turn the game in the Indians' favor. Facing a fourth-and-6 from Southeast's 20-yard line, safety Chaun Tate -- the up man who received a direct snap -- raced 80 yards for a touchdown on a fake punt for a 17-17 tie with 10:55 left in the third quarter.

"I got a good snap and it was wide open," Tate said. "We'd been working on that play."

A short time later, the Indians drove 51 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, Oliver scoring from 1 yard out for a 24-17 lead with 4:03 left in the third period.

But the Racers would not go away. First, Southeast's defense made a big stand after MSU drove inside the 5-yard line, forcing a 24-yard field goal with 11:47 left that made it 24-20.

But with Southeast's offense continuing to struggle, the Racers finally broke through. Taking over on the Southeast 45-yard line with 3:30 left, they drove for the go-ahead touchdown, Lane scoring on a 8-yard run with 1:59 left.

Then things got really interesting. First, quarterback Andrew Goodenough replaced a struggling Jack Tomco -- who completed nine of 22 passes for 126 yards -- and MSU intercepted a fourth-down pass at its 44 with 1:23 left.

Facing a third-and-1 at the Southeast 47 -- a first down would have allowed the Racers to kneel down and run out the clock -- MSU quarterback Steven Hatchell fumbled the snap and the Indians recovered at their 47 with 1:19 remaining.

After a first down, Goodenough ran 18 yards to the MSU 21, but a holding penalty wiped out the play. A short completion to Ray Goodson to the MSU 34 brought the Indians close to field-goal range, but Goodson was called for a personal foul, costing the Indians 15 yards. Southeast couldn't pick up the first down and MSU ran out the clock.

Of his decision to bench Tomco in favor of Goodenough -- who had not played for several weeks -- Billings said, "He was playing poorly and we needed some kind of spark."

Southeast had 358 yards of offense -- 208 rushing, including Tate's 80-yarder -- but just 152 yards came in the second half. The Indians' defense held the Racers to 286 yards, 214 on the ground.

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