Southeast surrenders 566 yards in 55-20 thumping

Sunday, October 28, 2007
Tennessee-Martin's Marcus Dawson carried a host of Southeast tacklers during Saturday's game in Martin, Tenn. (MIKE WILLIAMSON ~ Special to the Southeast Missourian)

The Redhawks dropped to 0-5 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

MARTIN, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State's spiraling football season went from bad to worse Saturday.

Not only did the Redhawks suffer their fifth straight loss, they did so in a most dubious fashion.

Tennessee-Martin's 55-20 romp tied for the most points Southeast has allowed in an Ohio Valley Conference game since joining the league in 1991.

Only a 55-6 defeat at the hands of former OVC member Middle Tennessee State in 1997 matches Saturday's performance for defensive futility.

And on the flip side, UTM posted its highest point total since 1995, and its highest-ever point total in OVC play since the Skyhawks joined the league in 1992.

"I'm very surprised. I did not expect it to go like that," Southeast junior quarterback Houston Lillard said. "We came in with a lot of confidence and had a good week of practice."

It certainly did not translate onto the field as the Redhawks fell to 2-6 overall and a last-place 0-5 in the 10-team OVC.

Since dropping a competitive game to defending OVC co-champion Eastern Illinois on Sept. 29, Southeast has lost its last three games by a combined 76 points while leading only once -- and that was for just a few minutes early in a 27-point defeat at OVC leader Eastern Kentucky.

"We felt good going in," Southeast senior defensive tackle Pat Christian said. "I thought we were fired up and ready to go.

"They just hit us with some big plays. They hurt us early."

Early and often.

The Skyhawks piled up a staggering 566 yards, the most Southeast has allowed to an OVC opponent this season (by 65 yards).

One year after a breakthrough 9-3 campaign that featured an OVC co-championship, the Skyhawks entered Saturday's contest 1-7 overall and 1-4 in OVC play. Those four conference defeats had been by a total of 15 points.

But UTM appeared to take out its frustrations on the Redhawks.

"This was a big win for our program," UTM coach Jason Simpson said. "We've been close for a month and a half now. We are 15 points from being 6-0 in this conference and we had to put it together."

Southeast's defense was hampered by the absence of senior linebacker Adam Casper, the OVC's leading tackler who did not play after suffering a knee injury during the third quarter of last week's loss to Murray State.

But it's doubtful Casper alone could have done much to slow down the rampaging Skyhawks and red-hot quarterback Cade Thompson.

Thompson has solid credentials, having started his career at South Carolina, where he redshirted in 2005 and played little last year before transferring.

The sophomore has been UTM's backup this season, behind Dexter Anoka, and had completed 32-of-48 passes for 348 yards in limited action.

With Anoka sidelined by a knee injury, Thompson made his second start of the season against Southeast.

He took advantage, completing 23-of-32 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Those were the first TD passes of his collegiate career.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel said Thompson was "very accurate. They do a good job throwing the ball."

The Skyhawks also tossed in a healthy dose of senior tailback Don Chapman, the OVC's No. 3 career rusher with more than 4,600 yards.

Chapman, who last year burned Southeast for 225 yards and as a freshman piled up a school-record 272 yards against the Redhawks, had 116 yards this time for his 22nd career 100-yard rushing game. UTM gained 249 yards on the ground.

Defensively, the Skyhawks limited the OVC's top-ranked rushing offense to 60 yards on 24 carries. Southeast was averaging 215.6 yards on the ground.

"Everybody is going to focus on shutting down our running game," Samuel said. "But we also decided to throw it more."

Behind Lillard, who is now Southeast's full-time quarterback after missing several games with cracked ribs, the Redhawks had by far their most productive passing output of the season.

Lillard threw for 252 of Southeast's 258 aerial yards, going 19-of-33 with two touchdowns and one interception. The Redhawks had previously thrown two touchdown passes all year.

Southeast entered play averaging an OVC-worst 108.6 passing yards. Its previous season high through the air was 217 yards.

The Redhawks had a chance to make an early statement as they took the opening kickoff and drove 50 yards for a first down at the UTM 20.

But Lillard, under heavy pressure, had a pass intercepted in the end zone.

"I thought I threw it away," Lillard said.

After that, it was pretty much all Skyhawks as UTM answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive and never looked back.

The Skyhawks scored on their first three offensive possessions and also returned a blocked punt for a TD.

Southeast failed to pick up a first down from its opening possession until its final drive of the half, which ended with a touchdown that sliced UTM's advantage to 27-7 at the break.

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