But once the Governors stopped turning the ball over, the Redhawks were doomed to their fifth straight loss, and on homecoming no less.
The Govs, after dominating statistically, finally also took control of the scoreboard with 21 fourth-quarter points.
That obliterated Southeast's 14-3 lead and resulted in Austin Peay's 24-14 win Saturday at Houck Stadium.
"I have to give it to Austin Peay," junior free safety Bryan Blanfort said. "They're a real scrappy team. They played hard and they hung in there."
Southeast fell to 1-5 overall and 0-4 in the OVC.
"Right now our backs are against the wall," junior tailback Henry Harris said. "I think we played hard. ... They were just the better team."
That was apparent for much of the afternoon despite the fact Austin Peay didn't lead until the final period.
It wasn't for a lack of chances as the Govs drove up and down the field seemingly at will only to be hampered in part by three interceptions off the arm of redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Ryan.
All three picks -- by junior linebacker Justin Woodlief, junior rover Aris Bowen and Blanfort -- halted drives that had penetrated fairly deep into Southeast territory, including one inside the 20.
Blanfort's interception not only stopped an Austin Peay drive but resulted in points for Southeast.
With Southeast leading 7-3 in the third quarter, Ryan's pass was tipped near the line of scrimmage by junior defensive end Damian Smith.
The ball bounced high in the air and into the waiting arms of Blanfort, who raced 69 yards to the end zone with 5 minutes, 57 seconds left in the period.
"It was a great play, but it was kind of a double-edged sword," Samuel said. "We came up with the interception after a long drive, but then we had to go right back on defense."
And the way Austin Peay was controlling the ball in the second half, that wasn't a good thing for Southeast.
Austin Peay was foiled on one more strong scoring chance. After driving to Southeast's 15 late in the third quarter, senior linebacker Josh Woods sacked Ryan on third down, which led to a missed field goal.
But that was the last time Austin Peay failed to take advantage of an opportunity as the Govs dominated the rest of the way behind a stout running game and suffocating defense.
The Govs drove 56 yards for their first touchdown of the day, making it 14-10 early in the final period.
Two plays later, with Southeast at its 30, sophomore quarterback Matt Scheible threw a pass into coverage that was intercepted by freshman safety Jeremy Ross and returned 8 yards to the 25.
"I probably should have taken off and ran or threw it away," Scheible said. "That's my mistake."
Austin Peay scored three plays after the pick, making it two touchdowns in less than two minutes and the Govs' first lead, 17-14 with nearly nine minutes remaining.
Southeast went three and out on its ensuing possession. The Govs answered with a clinching 64-yard touchdown drive that consumed seven minutes and ended with just 51 seconds left.
"We just couldn't make the big plays when we needed to," Woodlief said. "We just couldn't stop them when we needed to."
Austin Peay piled up 418 yards -- a whopping 325 on the ground -- and held Southeast to a season-low 154 yards.
Southeast was outgained 257 to 22 in the second half, when Austin Peay held the ball for 23 of 30 minutes and had 47 offensive plays to just 19 for the Redhawks.
"They did what they had to do," Samuel said. "If you've got a tired defense, you run on them."
Hard-running sophomore tailback Ryan White hammered Southeast for a career-high 228 yards on 32 carries. He had 162 yards in the second half. Junior tailback Terrence Holt added 100 yards rushing.
"We knew they were going to want to pound the ball," Blanfort said.
Southeast's only touchdown came on a 1-yard Harris run early in the second quarter that capped a 65-yard drive and made it 7-0.
Southeast had just one other strong scoring opportunity, that coming after junior defensive tackle Josh Gipson recovered a fumble at the Austin Peay 28 midway through the second period.
The drive stalled and senior Doug Spada missed a 26-yard field goal.
Austin Peay recovered a fumble at the Southeast 18 in the closing seconds of the first half, which led to a field goal at the buzzer to make it 7-3.
Southeast's offense only crossed midfield once in the second half -- to the Austin Peay 43 -- as the Govs eventually took control.