Rejuvinated Colonels visit Indians today

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The preseason OVC favorite has been on a roll since the return of quarterback Matt Guice.

By Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian

Another loss wouldn't automatically eliminate Southeast Missouri State University from contention for the Ohio Valley Conference championship, as the Indians proved last year.

But Southeast coach Tim Billings all but concedes that a victory over visiting Eastern Kentucky tonight is virtually a must if the Indians want to seriously keep their title hopes alive.

"You've still got a chance with two losses, as we did last year, but your chances really diminish," Billings said. "This is really a big game for us."

The Indians (1-4, 1-1 OVC) and surging Colonels (2-3, 2-1) will square off at 6 p.m. at Houck Stadium. Plenty will be on the line for both teams as they try to stay within striking distance of defending champion Jacksonville State, off to a 3-0 conference start.

"A win would keep our championship hopes alive," said EKU coach Danny Hope.

Billings believes his injury-riddled defense -- which is allowing an NCAA Division I-AA worst 551.2 yards per game -- was bolstered by an open date last week as the unit figures to be about as healthy as it has been for a while.

That improved health could be a big key as the Indians try to slow down an EKU offense that has been rolling ever since quarterback Matt Guice returned from an injury.

Guice, who threw for a school-record 2,266 yards last year, was hurt during EKU's season-opening loss at Appalachian State. He missed the next two games as the Colonels managed just 31 total points during losses to Western Kentucky and Jacksonville State.

But Guice came back two weeks ago and EKU -- the preseason OVC favorite -- beat Samford 39-36 in double-overtime. Last Saturday, the Colonels routed Eastern Illinois 49-6 after leading 42-0 at halftime.

Guice has completed 31 of 57 passes for 517 yards, with six touchdowns and two interceptions. While Guice was out, EKU quarterbacks had eight interceptions and one touchdown.

"He makes everybody around him better," Hope said. "He's a great competitor, a leader."

Said Billings, "He's an excellent quarterback who can run and throw. They struggled without him, but he gives them stability on offense. They were picked to win the league for a reason, and he's a big part of that."

EKU also has a stellar tailback in C.J. Hudson, who has nearly 3,500 career yards, including 539 yards this season.

"They have an excellent offense, they have some really good defensive players, and their kicking game is always solid," Billings said.

Southeast also has its share of offensive weapons, led by quarterback Andrew Goodenough, who is 12th nationally in total offense. Goodenough has completed 137 of 211 (64.9 percent) for an OVC-leading 1,404 yards, with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.

"They throw the football a lot and put a lot of points on the board," Hope said. "We've got our hands full."

Noteworthy

There will be the usual football tailgating near Houck Stadium today. Several televisions will be set up for fans to watch the Cardinals baseball game.

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