Redhawks fell short of upset, but held own vs. EIU

Monday, October 1, 2007

No, the Southeast Missouri State football team did not pull off a major upset Saturday night.

But at least give the Redhawks some credit.

One week after squandering a 14-point third-quarter lead and losing at unimpressive Samford, Southeast stood toe-to-toe with the Ohio Valley Conference's top squad and made Eastern Illinois sweat most of the way.

In the end, the Panthers proved their mettle by scoring the game's final 17 points to pull away for a 31-16 victory, after they trailed 16-14 in the third quarter.

But it's hard to be very critical of the Redhawks, especially after the way they fought and clawed against the heavily favored Panthers, who are the two-time defending OVC champions.

The Redhawks largely played well, and their defense hung in strong until the very end.

An EIU punt that hit a Southeast player and led to a 2-yard touchdown drive by the Panthers that put them up 28-16 was the Redhawks' most glaring error.

And continued struggles from the quarterback position keep holding the offense back, even though tailback Timmy Holloman is having a sensational season so far.

But overall, the performance had to be encouraging for Southeast fans who are rooting for coach Tony Samuel and his staff to build up a struggling program that has not experienced much Division I-AA success.

I don't know many people who expected the Redhawks to have a chance Saturday, except maybe their players and coaches.

That the Redhawks (2-3, 0-2 OVC) did have a shot until the late going could perhaps bode well for the remainder of their season, although that remains to be seen.

The road certainly gets no easier for the Redhawks, who after an open date visit tradition-rich Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 13.

It will be tough for Southeast to avoid an 0-3 conference start, but at least the schedule lightens up a bit after that, starting with struggling Murray State visiting for the Oct. 20 homecoming game.

Where this season will wind up for the Redhawks is anybody's guess.

But Saturday's showing was at least something to build on.

Elsewhere around the OVC, Tennessee-Martin sure has come back down to earth after last year's landmark season that featured a league co-championship and the program's first Division I-AA playoff berth.

Despite being nationally ranked in the preseason, the Skyhawks are 0-5 and have dropped their first two OVC games.

The teams Southeast beat for its two victories were treated rudely Saturday -- and that's putting it mildly.

Indiana State, just days after firing coach Lou West, was destroyed by SIU 72-10, while Southwest Baptist was pummeled by Northwest Missouri State 86-13.

Indiana State and Southwest Baptist remain winless.

Speaking of SIU, Southeast athletic director Don Kaverman told me Saturday that the Redhawks will play Southern Illinois in football in both 2009 and 2010.

The Redhawks, who last played SIU in 2005, will host the 2009 game, followed by a 2010 contest in Carbondale, Ill.

Kaverman also told me that Southeast and SIU are trying to work out arrangements to renew their men's basketball series, but nothing has been finalized.

A few Southeast basketball notes, as the start of official practice is now less than two weeks away (it begins Oct. 13):

There is virtually no chance senior center Mike Rembert will be ready for the Nov. 10 season opener after having knee surgery over the summer. The hope is that he'll be able to begin playing at least some when the OVC schedule begins Dec. 6.

That means freshman center Will Bogan will likely be counted on to play some pretty decent minutes, at least early.

The 6-foot-10 Bell City product has lost weight and looks good.

Word is that sophomore forward Jajuan Maxwell, who had major knee surgery in the spring, will likely be redshirted this season, although no official decision has been made.

In addition to junior walk-on guard Kendal Deason from Kelly High School and Three Rivers Community College, the Redhawks will have another walk-on in freshman guard Julian Gilliam from Parkway South High School in St. Louis.

Also, regarding guard Xavier Delph from Notre Dame High School, who was on the squad last year as a freshman walk-on but is not currently with the team:

Delph is academically ineligible for the first semester, but his mother told me that it's not because his grades were poor.

Delph's mom said his GPA is 2.48 in the rugged field of engineering -- good enough for him to be eligible -- but he isn't eligible because he withdrew from an English class last spring that put him under the 12 credit hours necessary to be a full-time student.

Delph should be able to regain his eligibility for the second semester, although whether or not he eventually rejoins the squad remains to be seen.

They haven't exactly faced a murderous early schedule -- although the win over Illinois is looking better and better -- but the Missouri Tigers are 4-0 entering the start of Big 12 Conference play.

If you're an MU fan, you've got to be a bit worried about the Tigers' defense, which appears suspect.

But MU certainly has an explosive offense, led by impressive quarterback Chase Daniel.

The Tigers, coming off an open date, kick off their league schedule Saturday at home against Nebraska in a matchup between what are expected to be the top two contenders for the Big 12 North Division title.

There should be plenty of excitement in Columbia for that one.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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