Southeast visits No. 6 Missouri today
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Southeast Missouri State faces seemingly insurmountable odds tonight, but the Redhawks aren't conceding anything.
Just about everybody expects sixth-ranked Missouri to pummel Southeast when the squads square off at 68,000-seat Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.
MU is paying Southeast's athletic department $250,000 for what the Tigers anticipate to be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage on their way to a run at the national championship.
Southeast coach Tony Samuel acknowledges things could get out of hand, which is why he has two potential plans in the works.
He hopes plan A — and not plan B — takes shape.
"You prepare and try your best to figure out a way to win the game," Samuel said.
Of course, there is the other side of the coin.
"We'll have a plan if things are going well and a plan if things are not going well," Samuel said.
If it quickly becomes a blowout, Samuel suggested the Redhawks likely would try to get as many key players off the field as possible with an eye toward Thursday's Ohio Valley Conference opener against Tennessee Tech.
Southeast's players realize the monumental challenge they face, but they say they welcome the opportunity to test themselves against one of the nation's elite major-college programs.
"I'm looking forward to it, to show people what we've got," said senior quarterback Houston Lillard, who threw for a career-high 387 yards during Southeast's season-opening 35-28 overtime win over Southwest Baptist. "We're going to go out, do our best and have fun."
Said senior linebacker Nick Stauffer: "It's a challenge, but it's another game. You try and treat every game the same."
Several of the Redhawks pointed to last year's win by Appalachian State at Michigan as an example of how anything can happen in a given game.
Granted, three-time FCS national champion Appalachian State is a much higher-level program than Southeast, but it was still a major upset by an FCS team against a big-time FBS squad.
"It's kind of like a David and Goliath matchup," senior defensive back Kendall Magana said. "But Appalachian State showed last year, it can be done."
Added Lillard: "If you don't have intentions of winning, there's no reason to go. We're going to try our best to win. No matter the odds ... the best team doesn't always win."
Senior wide receiver Mike Williamson said it will be imperative for the Redhawks not to fall into a big early hole.
"We've got to make stuff happen early," Williamson said. "It's kind of like a boxing match, when you're an underdog, you have to throw the first punch.
"If we can keep it close, going into halftime ..."
Magana and Stauffer said it will be a challenge for Southeast's defense to slow down one of the nation's top offenses.
With Southeast opening its season on a Thursday, the Redhawks had a chance to watch Saturday's nationally televised game between MU and Illinois. The Tigers won 52-42.
"Watching that game against Illinois, it was pretty impressive," Magana said. "It's a challenge for our defense, going against so many great players."
Playing in front of more than 60,000 fans tonight also will present a challenge for the Redhawks, who most times compete in front of crowds numbering less than 10,000 during OVC games. Several of the Redhawks also had that chance in 2006, when they played in front of more than 70,000 at Arkansas.
"It's always a privilege to get to play at that level, in front of that many people," Magana said. "I remember the atmosphere at Arkansas. I like playing in that kind of atmosphere."
Said Williamson: "The atmosphere, the crowd ... I just think about Arkansas, when Darren McFadden took that play early in the game and ran for a long touchdown ... the crowd went crazy. It's going to be a great atmosphere."
* Two players from the immediate Southeast Missourian coverage area — both walk-ons — are on the MU roster.
Tyron Reece is a redshirt senior wide receiver who attended Central High School while Grant Ressel is a redshirt freshman kicker/punter from Jackson.
Ressel is listed No. 2 at punter on the MU depth chart. He did not play in the season opener.
Reece is not listed on the depth chart. He has not seen any game action during his MU career.