It's highly unlikely the Southeast Missouri State football team will overlook its season-opening opponent.
Even if Division II Southwest Baptist University went 0-11 and was outscored 494-240 last year.
All the Redhawks have to do to muster plenty of respect for SBU is remember what happened against the Bearcats in 2007.
The heavy underdogs from Bolivar, Mo., gave Southeast all it wanted during the second game of the season.
The Bearcats, who outgained Southeast 356 to 348 in total yardage, led 14-7 in the third quarter and trailed just 23-17 with under 10 minutes left before the Redhawks finally pulled away to win 38-17.
"We won the game, but we didn't play very well," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said.
Southeast would rather not have to sweat so much when the squads square off at 6 p.m. today at Houck Stadium.
"They stuck with us last year. Hopefully we'll put them away earlier this year," senior linebacker Nick Stauffer said.
With Southeast's football history on the Division I-AA level, the Redhawks can't afford to take any team lightly. Southeast has had just two winning seasons in 17 Division I-AA seasons, the most recent coming in 2002.
The Redhawks are 7-15 under Samuel, the latest coach to try to pump life into Southeast's program. The Redhawks went 3-8 last year in Samuel's second season, including a 1-6 Ohio Valley Conference mark.
"We've said this a couple of times, we're a completely different team than last year," senior wide receiver Mike Williamson said.
Like Stauffer, Williamson said he hopes the Redhawks are able to take care of business much earlier tonight than they did against SBU a year ago.
"We know last year against them we didn't play the way we're capable of," Williamson said.
Southeast will have to be ready for SBU's wide-open passing attack, led by sophomore quarterback Steven Gachette, who generally operates with four wide receivers at his disposal.
In an otherwise dismal 2007 for the Bearcats, Gachette was a major bright spot as a true freshman. He passed for 2,953 yards and 15 touchdowns while completing 61.2 percent, although he was intercepted 20 times. He was 21 of 48 for 250 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions against Southeast last season.
"He's a very good quarterback, very mobile," Samuel said. "He's very accurate."
The Redhawks might have lost last year's meeting with SBU had it not been for the performance of tailback Timmy Holloman.
Holloman, one of the top running backs in school history, rushed for 203 yards on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns against the Bearcats on runs of 66, 31 and 20 yards.
Take away Holloman's outburst, and Southeast managed only 145 yards.
But Holloman won't be on the field tonight. The senior is ineligible for the first five games of the season under NCAA guidelines, after he also was forced to sit out the final six games of 2007.
Returning sophomores Mike Jones and Alfred Reese, along with sophomore Henry Harris — a transfer from Division I-A Memphis — are among the players who will try to pick up the slack.
Samuel said he "feels good" about Southeast's running back situation without Holloman.
"We'll find out when we play," Samuel said. "We've got a fair amount of people I think can get us through it."
Southeast passed for just 84 yards against SBU last year, but the Redhawks displayed a solid air attack over the second half of the season after Houston Lillard established himself as the full-time quarterback.
Lillard, who saw limited action in last season's meeting, is the clear-cut No. 1 from the start of his senior campaign.
With an almost certain mauling on the horizon next week at top-10 Division I-A Missouri, the Redhawks know they can't afford to slip up tonight.
"No matter what, no matter who you play, when you put the pads on, you have to be ready," Williamson said. "I know we'll be ready."