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Southeast fans soak up atmosphere in Columbia

Sunday, September 7, 2008

AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Brook Welker, a freshman at Southeast Missouri State University, and Brad Eaton, a SEMO alumnus, stood in their red shirts at the edge of a sea of black and gold Saturday before the Redhawks' game against the University of Missouri in Columbia.
COLUMBIA — Sarah Roussin's shirt told the story of what she was doing outside Faurot Field at the University of Missouri on Saturday.

"I'm just here to tailgate," was spelled out in red and white letters on a black shirt, making her school colors stand out among the gold T-shirts and Chase Daniel jerseys.

But Roussin, a Southeast Missouri State senior from Jefferson County, had a more politically correct answer prepared.

"Because it's a different atmosphere, and I'm here to support my team," she said.

Southeast Missouri State supporters who made the trip to the University of Missouri for Saturday evening's game against the sixth-ranked team in NCAA Division I-A football had no false pretenses about how the Redhawks would fare.

"I hope they get a good experience," Roussin said.

Southeast came in 1-0 — just like Mizzou — but needed overtime to beat Division II Southwest Baptist in the opener.

"Southeast might score three points in the fourth quarter," said Southeast student Sam Herbster of St. Louis. "If they score 10, that would be a victory. A touchdown and late field goal in the fourth."

He was enjoying the pregame atmosphere just outside the stadium along with Scott Crean and Crean's parents.

"It's really exciting just to see Southeast play a school the caliber of Mizzou," said Crean, a student from Belleville, Ill. "It's fun to have the in-state game, and I hope that they continue it in the future."

Herbster and Crean estimated thousands of students, possibly one-third of the enrollment, could be in Columbia this weekend.

"Just because it's a neat tailgating atmosphere," Crean said. "Cape is a lot of fun, but as far as the football game goes ... it's the Big 12."

"People get more fired up for a game here," Herbster added.

The atmosphere for the schools' first meeting since their lone previous contest in 1936 was a draw for more than just the college students. One group of tailgaters with a 50-50 split of gold shirts and red shirts included some Southeast graduates from the 1980s, Bill and Connie Juengel and Ed Hume, all of Union.

"It's my first SEMO game probably since I was down there," said Hume, a 1985 graduate.

"They were such a powerhouse when I was there," Hume joked. "We looked forward to playing Lincoln. That was our homecoming game."

Hume was wearing a Southeast shirt, but hedging his bet with a Mizzou hat.

"I root for MU unless they're playing SEMO," Hume said. "I figure SEMO is going to need some help this week."

Bill Juengel wore Mizzou colors while his wife had on Southeast red.

"He said he didn't have SEMO clothes, but I think that's a poor excuse," Connie Juengel said. "I think he just wanted to go with the team he thought was going to win."

Bill, a teacher and coach at Union High School, confirmed that he thought Mizzou was going to win: "52-7."

"That depends," Hume chimed in, "if Mizzou plays their first team for long."

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