Redhawks get another crack at Bearcats

Saturday, September 8, 2007

After getting blown out by Cincinnati in last week's opener, Southeast will host Southwest Baptist.

Southwest Baptist University coach Keith Allen knows his team will be a heavy underdog against Southeast Missouri State tonight.

But when you're directing a squad that went 1-10 and was outscored 477-260 last year, that's the norm.

"We told our kids we'll be an underdog in every game," Allen said. "We were picked last in our conference."

Yet Allen, who took over the Division II program in late June after Jack Peavy resigned, doesn't seem flustered by the fact Southeast is expected to romp in its home opener.

"Somebody's an underdog in every game," said Allen, formerly the Bearcats' defensive coordinator. "If [the underdog never won], you'd never play the game. You would just go on power ratings.

"It's not always the best team that wins. It's the team that plays the best for those three hours."

SBU (0-1) is traveling to Cape Girardeau from Bolivar, Mo., for much the same reason the Redhawks (0-1) visited Division I-A Cincinnati on Aug. 30 -- money.

Cincinnati paid Southeast $250,000 to provide much-needed revenue for the university's athletic department. In exchange, the Redhawks received a 59-3 spanking in their season opener.

Southeast is paying SBU $25,000, with most fans expecting the Redhawks to treat the Bearcats much like Cincinnati treated Southeast.

But Southeast coach Tony Samuel was quick to emphasize that things don't always work out that way.

Just ask Michigan, which paid Appalachian State $400,000 for last Saturday's game -- only to see the two-time defending Division I-AA champion Mountaineers pull off what is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

"There's no such thing as an easy game in football," Samuel said. "Appalachian State really helped a lot of coaches in this profession explain why you prepare for everybody."

SBU's program is in a down cycle -- only once in the last 15 seasons has the team won more than three games -- but Allen said the Bearcats are considerably improved over last year.

SBU, which competes in the rugged MIAA -- one of the nation's premier Division II conferences that included Southeast before it moved up to Division I -- suffered just two of its 10 losses last year by less than 12 points.

But the Bearcats nearly won their 2007 opener, allowing a touchdown in the final minute during a 43-40 defeat at Harding (Ark.).

SBU, using a no-huddle, spread offense that usually features four wide receivers, piled up 519 yards of offense against Harding.

"I think we're a better team than we were last year," Allen said. "We've got better players."

One of those is redshirt freshman quarterback Steve Gachette, who completed 40 of 61 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions against Harding.

Gachette, and the Bearcats' offensive style, has drawn plenty of attention from Samuel, who expects Southeast's defense to be tested.

"Their quarterback is very accurate and mobile, and they do a great job with timing routes," Samuel said. "They've recruited well, and they are well coached.

"No matter how you cut it, 500 yards of offense is 500 yards of offense."

In addition to Gachette, Samuel said SBU has other dangerous weapons, including Nick Smart, who caught 14 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the opener.

Allen knows his defense will also have to contend with some dangerous weapons, including quarterback Victor Anderson.

Anderson had a dazzling Southeast debut at Cincinnati as the junior college transfer rushed for 118 yards on 13 carries. He also completed 8 of 16 passes for 59 yards.

"We've got to eliminate big plays defensively from people like their quarterback," Allen said. "And I'm sure coach Samuel will do everything he can to not let his team slip in this game."

Samuel said he always worries about his squad overlooking a lower-division opponent, but he pointed out that the young, inexperienced Redhawks haven't done anything yet to warrant overconfidence.

"You always need to guard against that," said Samuel, whose first Southeast squad last year opened its home schedule by beating Division II Missouri-Rolla 44-23. "But we haven't done anything. We've played one game and lost 59-3."

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