Winless Bears visit Redhawks today

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Southeast Missouri State coach Tony Samuel said his team's primary downfall against Missouri State last season was the big play.

Six of MSU's eight touchdowns covered at least 13 yards, including three that went for at least 34 yards, in the Bears' 55-17 triumph in Springfield, Mo.

The Redhawks hope to improve in that area tonight when the squads have a rematch at Houck Stadium.

"They really hurt us on big plays," Samuel said of last year's meeting. "We have to eliminate them."

Southeast is 1-2 after dropping its Ohio Valley Conference opener last week, 29-27 at home to Tennessee Tech. The Bears (0-2) still are searching for their first win.

MSU, which competes in the Missouri Valley Football Conference — formerly the Gateway Conference — was upset by nationally ranked Division II Washburn 35-27 in its season opener.

The Bears then lost 57-13 at Division I-A Oklahoma State on Saturday, which was similar to the 52-3 pounding Southeast suffered at Missouri — the nation's fifth-ranked Division I-A squad — two weeks ago.

MSU returned 16 starters from its 2007 team that went 6-5 for the program's third winning season in 11 years.

"They got caught by Washburn. It's hard to evaluate the Oklahoma State game, but they did a lot of good things," Samuel said. "I think they're a good football team."

The Bears appear to have plenty of offensive firepower as they returned many of the players from last year's unit that ranked 10th in Division I-AA scoring with a school-record 36.3 points per game.

Quarterback Cody Kirby, the 2007 MVFC freshman of the year, completed 18 of 21 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Southeast.

Another sophomore, tailback Kingjack Washington, joined Kirby on the MVFC all-newcomer team. He had a 37-yard TD run against Southeast last year.

Junior tight end Clay Harbor is another major weapon for MSU, averaging 14.4 yards on 45 receptions last year.

"They returned a lot of people on offense," Samuel said. "Their quarterback is a good player, their running back is a game-breaker type, they have a very good tight end they use a lot and they have a good offensive line."

The Bears' defense was a weak link last season, ranking 108th nationally by allowing 35.3 points per game, along with 453 yards a contest.

Oklahoma State outgained MSU in total yardage 572 to 196 as the Cowboys piled up 450 yards rushing while having three backs gain at least 100 yards.

But Samuel emphasized that the Cowboys are a strong team and MSU's defense is better than it showed that day.

MSU coach Terry Allen thinks his squad is considerably better than it has shown so far this season.

Allen said the Bears — 0-2 for the first time since 1994 — could use a victory in the worst way before they begin their rugged MVFC schedule.

"This is really an important game for us, the position we're in," Allen said. "I have a lot of respect for Tony and his team, but we desperately need to find a way to win."

MSU leads the all-time series with Southeast 45-28, winning 13 of the last 14 and six straight.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us," Samuel said.

Richardet in town

St. Vincent High School graduate Waylon Richardet should see action for the Bears tonight.

Richardet, a sophomore defensive lineman and special teams performer, is not listed on MSU's two-deep chart, but has appeared in both games so far. He has two tackles.

After redshirting in 2006, Richardet had 11 tackles in a reserve role last season. Among his 2007 highlights was a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Southeast. He also had his only career sack in that game.

Allen said Richardet plays about 25 snaps per game on defense and is on virtually all of MSU's special teams.

"He's a great kid and a very important player for us," Allen said.

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