Victory over Tennessee-Martin gives Southeast a needed lift

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University football coach Tim Billings believed all along that his team's attitude had remained positive despite its struggles this year.

But Southeast's players figure to have a lot better feeling about themselves during practice this week after Saturday's 35-7 homecoming win over Tennessee-Martin.

"This is great momentum for the last three weeks of the season," junior cornerback Kellin White said following Southeast's second victory of the season. "Everybody kept playing real hard even when we weren't winning and this should give us a lot of confidence."

Billings said Monday that he has no idea just how much Saturday's triumph will boost Southeast's attitude -- but he knows it picked up the coaches a whole lot.

"Like I said after the game, I don't know if our attitude is going to be any better, but the coaches' will be," Billings said, laughing. "I needed it more than anyone.

"I hope it gets us on a roll. We really need to play well these last three games just for momentum into next year."

Southeast's injury-riddled defense has taken plenty of shots this season as it ranks among the nation's worst Division I-AA units statistically. But in recent weeks the defense has come on strong.

Against Tennessee-Martin, Southeast allowed a season-low point total for the second straight game and might have had a shutout were it not for a blocked punt that led to a one-yard scoring drive.

"We gave up some yardage, but overall we played really well defensively. We made some big plays," Billings said.

No defensive plays were bigger than White's two interception returns for touchdowns in the third quarter that helped turn a close game into a blowout.

White has four interceptions this season, with three going for touchdowns. He is tied for fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference and ranks 22nd nationally in interceptions per game. Last year, White also had four interceptions, including one for a score.

"Kellin is such a smart football player and he's played really well for us this year," Billings said.

Also having a big defensive day Saturday was junior tackle Brandon Bohnert, who had three quarterback sacks to raise his season total to four, which is second in the OVC.

"Brandon really played well," Billings said. "He's getting better every week. That was probably his best game since he's been here."

Now Southeast (2-6, 2-3 OVC) will turn its attentions to Tennessee State (3-5, 1-3), which has lost five straight games. The squads will square off Saturday night in Nashville at The Coliseum, which is the home of the Tennessee Titans.

Southeast is in seventh place among nine OVC squads, just ahead of the eighth-place Tigers, who feature the nation's third-leading rusher in Charles Anthony.

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