Southeast tries to spoil Tennessee Tech's title bid

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Tennessee Tech needs some help to gain at least a share of its first Ohio Valley Conference championship since 1975.

But wait just a minute, said Tech coach Mike Hennigan. If the Eagles (6-3, 3-2) don't beat Southeast Missouri State University (2-7, 2-4) in today's 1 p.m. game at Houck Stadium, then everything else will be moot.

"I just think we need to just take care of things one at a time," Hennigan said. "I haven't thought too much about the conference race. We just have to hope our football team finishes strong."

Jacksonville State leads the OVC with just one loss and will capture its second straight outright title by winning its final two games.

Tech is in a virtual three-way tie for second place and needs Jacksonville State to slip up at least once -- along with the Eagles winning their final two games -- in order to grab no worse than a share of the crown.

"Jacksonville State is in the position to win the conference," Hennigan said. "With two losses in the conference, you can't be real optimistic about wearing the ring on your finger, that's for sure."

Even though Southeast is having a dismal season and Tech is in the hunt for a championship -- despite being picked eighth out of nine teams in the OVC's preseason poll after finishing tied for last a year ago and going just 2-9 overall -- Hennigan doesn't expect an easy time today as Southeast plays its final home game.

Of particular concern to Hennigan is a potent passing attack led by quarterback Andrew Goodenough, who has thrown for 2,446 yard and needs 131 yards to have the second-highest single-season passing total in school history.

"They've only won two games, but they have a very good passing game, and our secondary will have a challenge," Hennigan said. "Obviously they're a good offensive team. Their statistics show that. I think they're going to have some success. We'll do our best to keep them off the scoreboard but realistically they're going to score some points."

Hennigan also is concerned that the Eagles have not won an OVC road game this year.

"We haven't won a conference road game yet, so that's got to be our focus," he said. "Any good team has to win a conference game on the road, and we haven't been able to do that yet."

Southeast coach Tim Billings has plenty of concerns regarding the Eagles, who lead the OVC in total defense (319 yards per game allowed) and also have a solid offense led by quarterback Robert Craft, the school's career passing leader.

Craft has thrown for 1,971 yards this season while tailbacks Trey Bonner and Derek White have combined to rush for more than 1,200 yards.

"Craft is a great quarterback, and defensively they're always very good," Billings said. "Tennessee Tech is always a tough football team.

"It's a tough situation for us because we don't have anything to play for and they're playing for a chance at the conference championship."

But Billings believes Southeast will give a good account of itself after last Saturday's near-miss at Tennessee State in which Southeast rallied from a 25-point deficit early in the third quarter only to lose 38-36.

"After the tough loss, we'll find out the character of our team, but I really think we're going to play hard," Billings said. "We had every reason not to play hard in the second half at Tennessee State, but we really fought. I think we'll do that again."

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