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ISU in search of rare victory

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Redhawks host an Indiana State team that is 1-29 in its last 30 games.

Southeast Missouri State football fans who think their favorite team has struggled in recent years, things could be worse.

Just look at Indiana State, which visits Houck Stadium tonight.

Since 2005, the Redhawks are 7-17, including 1-1 this year.

During that same stretch, the Sycamores are 1-23, including two losses to start this season. Over its last 30 games, ISU is 1-29.

Ouch!

"It hasn't been easy," said ISU coach Lou West, in his third season with the Sycamores.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel, in his second season with the Redhawks, said the rebuilding project West is trying to accomplish is not much different from what he and his staff are attempting.

Both programs have been down for a while, both have older facilities, both face budget issues and both are trying to battle their way up their respective conferences against traditional powers.

Since moving up to Division I-AA in 1991, Southeast has had just two winning seasons, most recently in 2002.

Southeast is 15-32 since then, with last season's four victories the program's most since 2003.

ISU's last winning season was in 1996. Only twice since have the Sycamores won as many as five games, most recently in 2002.

"We have to both battle. ... We both have the same issues in some areas," Samuel said.

West said he also sees similarities in the two programs.

"They are programs that have been struggling the last few years," he said. "You come in thinking you have the answers. Sometimes it takes longer than you want."

Samuel and West also see their programs as being fairly similar this year in another respect.

Each coach said he believes his team has considerable talent, although much of it is young and inexperienced.

Samuel has nearly 60 first-year Division I-AA players on his roster, and only nine seniors.

West has considerably more seniors, but four freshmen and five sophomores are listed as probable starters for the Sycamores tonight.

"We're trying to put together something that will be here for a while, not a quick fix," West said.

ISU has struggled on both sides of the ball so far this year, first in an expected 55-7 blowout at Division I-A Indiana, and then in a somewhat surprising 32-17 home loss to Austin Peay.

Austin Peay, picked to finish last in the Ohio Valley Conference, only returned to the scholarship level last year after spending most of the past decade as a nonscholarship program.

Yet the Govs ran all over the Sycamores to the tune of 289 yards rushing and 429 yards overall, while holding ISU to 249 yards total.

"Any time you think you can play better than you did, it's a disappointment," West said of last Saturday's contest. "But it's not the end of the world. We still have nine more games."

Despite ISU's woes recently, Samuel is wary of the Sycamores as Southeast has its final tuneup before starting OVC play.

Samuel is concerned about ISU's spread attack, an offense that was used by Southeast's first two opponents with considerable success.

And it's not like the Redhawks were overly impressive in their only win, 38-17 over Division II Southwest Baptist last Saturday. The Redhawks trailed 14-7 in the third quarter.

"I expect a tough game," Samuel said. "We'll have to play a lot better than against Southwest Baptist."


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