Lillard sidelined with cracked ribs

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The quarterback will miss at least one game.

By Marty MishowSoutheast Missourian

Southeast Missouri State quarterback Houston Lillard suffered a rib injury early during Saturday's game at Samford and never returned.

But afterward, Lillard expressed confidence that he would be able to play in the Redhawks' next contest.

"I'll be back next week," Lillard said following the 26-21 loss in Birmingham, Ala.

That, however, won't be the case.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel began his weekly media briefing Monday by announcing that Lillard had two cracked ribs.

Samuel said Lillard will not play Saturday night when Ohio Valley Conference preseason favorite Eastern Illinois visits Houck Stadium.

The Panthers, two-time defending OVC champions, are 2-2 overall and 1-0 in league play. The Redhawks are 2-2 and 0-1.

There is a chance that Lillard could miss several games, although Samuel would not speculate how long Lillard might be out.

Following Saturday's contest, Southeast has an open date before visiting Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 13.

"He's definitely out for this week and maybe longer," Samuel said.

Lillard's injury comes at a time when he was pumping some life into Southeast's struggling passing attack.

Against Indiana State on Sept. 15, in his most extensive action of the season, Lillard completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards.

That earned Lillard the start against Samford in Southeast's OVC opener. He completed his first three passes on the Redhawks' opening offensive possession, which resulted in a field goal.

But Lillard was injured on a scramble during Southeast's second offensive possession. He finished 3-of-5 for 23 yards.

For the season, Lillard is 22-of-32 for 240 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Lillard's completion percentage of 68.8 ranks second in the OVC among quarterbacks who have thrown more than 16 passes. He is fifth in passing efficiency.

"Houston is a good quarterback," Samuel said.

Victor Anderson, who had basically been splitting time with Lillard in the first three games -- although Anderson had received the bulk of the action prior to Indiana State -- will start against Eastern Illinois.

Anderson, like Lillard a junior college transfer, has been more effective with his legs than his arm.

Anderson is Southeast's second-leading rusher, gaining 218 yards and averaging 4.7 yards per attempt.

In the passing department, Anderson is completing just 39.1 percent (18-of-46) for 177 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Against Samford, Anderson was 6-of-18 for 64 yards.

Samuel said he still has confidence in Anderson's passing ability.

"He can throw. He'll be fine," Samuel said. "He's played four games at this level.

"He's a good quarterback. We'll use his strengths."

True freshman Jared Van Slyke saw his first collegiate action at quarterback against Samford after Anderson missed a few plays with cramps. Van Slyke's only pass attempt was intercepted.

Either Van Slyke or redshirt freshman Steve Callanan will serve as Anderson's primary backup while Lillard is out.

Callanan was moved to safety prior to the Indiana State game after the Redhawks suffered several injuries in the secondary, although he did not see action in the defensive backfield in either contest since the switch.

Samuel said Southeast was already planning to move Callanan back to quarterback before Lillard got hurt, since the secondary has started to get healthier.

Callanan saw his only action at quarterback in the waning moments of the Southwest Baptist game on Sept. 8. He did not attempt a pass.

Samuel said the determination as to who will be Anderson's backup for Saturday's contest will be made during practice this week.

As for Van Slyke, who had been projected as a likely redshirt this year before circumstances changed those plans, Samuel said he continues to be impressed with the young signal caller.

"He's progressing way beyond my expectations," Samuel said. "I think he's a player. It's just a matter of time."

Samuel did not even rule out Van Slyke becoming a key contributor this year.

"I think he'll have to play at some point," Samuel said. "We still have a lot of questions to answer."

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