It's not often a football team wins a game when allowing an opposing player to rack up almost 500 yards of total offense.
But then Saturday night's Ohio Valley Conference opener at Houck Stadium was not your average football game.
Far from it as Southeast Missouri State University squeezed out an improbable 51-48 victory in four overtimes before an announced crowd of 7,112. Both squads are 1-3 overall.
"I've never played in anything like that before," said Southeast cornerback Kellin White, who returned an interception for a touchdown and did a strong job shadowing Samford All-America receiver Efrem Hill. "I'm so tired, but it's a great win."
It came despite Samford quarterback Ray Nelson shredding Southeast's defense for 492 yards. Nelson rushed for 198 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns. He completed 31 of 49 passes for 294 yards and two TDs.
"He's a great athlete," White said.
But, with the game on the line in the fourth overtime -- after the squads had exchanged two touchdowns and a field goal in the first three overtimes -- Nelson made a critical mistake that ultimately turned the tide in Southeast's favor.
In overtime, each team starts at the other squad's 25-yard line and has equal possessions until the tie is broken. In the fourth OT, with the score tied 48-48, Samford went on offense first and faced a fourth-and-goal from Southeast's 1-yard line. Nelson's pass in the end zone was intercepted by safety Reggie Aubuchon.
Aubuchon, with only a few offensive linemen to outrun, appeared as if he might go all the way for a touchdown to end things right there. But an inadvertent whistle blew the play dead following the interception after Aubuchon had already raced about 30 yards.
"I would have gone all the way," Aubuchon said. "We'd seen them use that play on film and I was thinking tight end all the way."
Southeast then took over needing only a field goal to win. Tailback David Taufoou gained 21 yards in two plays. One play later, St. Vincent High School product Derek Kutz ended things with a 22-yard field goal.
Kutz, who connected from 38 yards in regulation, kicked a career-best 48-yarder in the third overtime as Southeast went ahead 48-45, before Samford's field goal tied it again.
"The last one, the line was blocking great and I just knew all I had to do was get it up there and put it through," Kutz said.
The wild affair, which featured 591 yards of total offense by Samford and 503 yards by Southeast, actually didn't start out all that unusual. The Bulldogs led 14-7 at halftime -- Southeast's touchdown came on a 42-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Goodenough to wide receiver Brian Matthews -- and Samford appeared to be in control with a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
Then, however, Southeast changed the entire complexion of the game. After a 38-yard Kutz field goal with 7:06 left in the third period pulled the Indians within 20-10, White picked off an overthrown pass from Nelson to Hill and raced 43 yards to the end zone with 6:53 left in the third as Southeast closed to 20-17.
Samford went back up 23-17 late in the third -- and then things got really crazy.
Wide receiver T.J. Milcic took a short pass near the sideline from Goodenough and broke several tackles on his way to a 47-yard touchdown that put Southeast up 24-23. Milcic also had several key catches in overtime during the best game of his Southeast career.
"I just ran my routes and was doing my job," Milcic said. "This was definitely my best game but hopefully there's more to come."
Nelson's 6-yard TD run with 4:32 left and Nelson's two-point conversion pass to Hill regained the lead for Samford at 31-24.
Southeast came back with a clutch 88-yard drive that featured a fourth-down conversion from its own 19-yard line as Goodenough hit tight end Ray Goodson (Jackson High School) for 12 yards. Taufoou capped the march with a 13-yard run with 1:06 left and Kutz's PAT forced overtime at 31-31.
Tailback Jamel Oliver scored on a 1-yard run for the Indians in the first OT and Samford answered. Samford scored first in the second OT and Southeast answered on Oliver's 1-yard run that was set up by Milcic's 22-yard reception.
That led to the exchange of field goals in the third OT, and the fourth OT that featured Aubuchon's interception and Kutz's game-winner.
Goodenough completed 25 of 44 for 327 yards and two TDs. Southeast also rushed for 176 yards, 77 by Oliver and 74 by Taufoou.
"We just hung in there and hung in there," Southeast coach Tim Billings said. "We played hard and kept believing. It's a great win."