Redhawks played hard, but were outmatched

Monday, September 21, 2009

Four lost fumbles inside Southeast Missouri State's 25-yard line by Eastern Illinois -- including two at the 1-yard line -- allowed the Redhawks to hang around during Saturday night's Ohio Valley Conference opener.

But the Panthers ultimately proved too strong as they dominated the second half on their way to a 23-14 victory despite trailing 14-7 at halftime.

EIU outgained Southeast 278 to 103 in total yardage over the last two quarters while possessing the ball for 19 minutes, 35 seconds compared to 10:25 for the Redhawks.

That allowed the Panthers to finish with a total yardage edge of 523 to 381 after Southeast had more first-half yards (278 to 245) and a bigger time of possession (16:50 to 13:10).

While the Redhawks played hard and relatively mistake-free -- their lone turnover came in the final minutes on an interception as they were basically in desperation mode -- it was fairly clear that EIU was the more talented team.

That's not surprising, considering EIU has 10 Division I-A transfers on its roster. Many of those also were on the squad last year, but two who weren't especially hurt Southeast.

Most impressive was senior quarterback Jake Christensen, Iowa's full-time starter in 2007 who started just two games for the Hawkeyes a year ago and then decided to use his final season of eligibility at EIU.

I mistakenly wrote in Sunday's paper that Christensen accounted for 332 yards of offense. Bad math on my part, but the left-hander's 322 yards -- 292 passing and two touchdown passes, along with 30 rushing yards -- was more than enough to bury Southeast.

Southeast simply could not sack Christensen, who eluded what looked like several sure sacks to either run for yardage or complete passes.

Christensen connected on 19 of 26 attempts as he displayed great accuracy while more often than not hitting receivers in perfect stride.

Watching Christensen dissect Southeast, it was easy to see how he threw for more than 2,200 yards and 17 touchdowns in the Big 10 Conference two seasons ago.

Then there was junior tailback Mon Williams, who used a big second half to rush for 119 yards on 16 carries. His 65-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter tied the contest at 14-14.

Williams, averaging better than 100 yards on the ground per game, was a three-year squad member at Florida, where he saw little action in 2006 and 2008 while redshirting with an injury in 2007.

Traditionally strong EIU, which had a losing 2008 season following three straight playoff appearances, appeared talented enough to my eyes Saturday to make a run at the OVC title. The Panthers are off to a big start at 3-0.

Southeast (1-2) still looks to be a ways off from that championship-contending level.

One conference defeat does not ruin a season, but the Redhawks can't afford too many if they want to push for a solid OVC finish.

As I wrote several months ago, Southeast's annual "money" game against a Division I-A program finds the Redhawks visiting Purdue in 2011.

As far as I know, Southeast has not finalized its "money" game for next season.

Meanwhile, regarding the rumor I heard last week that the Redhawks were going to play Mississippi in the next few years, that on the surface would seem a solid possibility.

After all, Southeast basketball coach Dickey Nutt and Mississippi football coach Houston Nutt are brothers. Plus, Southeast athletic director John Shafer formerly held a similar position at Ole Miss.

But according to partial football schedules posted on the Ole Miss web site, the Rebels already have lined up their Division I-AA opponents through 2012.

St. Vincent High School graduate Waylon Richardet is a defensive lineman at Missouri State, so scoring touchdowns is not part of the junior's normal routine.

But Richardet got to experience that rare feeling Saturday as he pounced on a Murray State fumble in the end zone during the Bears' 35-10 victory in Springfield, Mo.

Richardet has started all three games for the 2-1 Bears and he leads the squad with 1.5 sacks. He is second in tackles for loss with 2.5 and has 11 total tackles.

Richardet started seven of 11 games last season, finishing with 25 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Richardet has one other collegiate touchdown, which came against Southeast during his redshirt freshman season in 2007 as he returned a kickoff 75 yards late during a blowout victory.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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