Not many people will give Southeast Missouri State much of a chance Saturday when powerful Jacksonville State visits.
But JSU coach Jack Crowe said what happened to the Gamecocks the last time they played in Cape Girardeau is proof they can't afford to overlook the reeling Redhawks.
"It is a long trip. The last time we were over there we lost [32-25 in the final game of 2007]," Crowe said. "I have great respect for coach Samuel. ... They will play you very, very physical."
Southeast coach Tony Samuel would like nothing better than for the Redhawks (1-7, 0-6 Ohio Valley Conference) to break their seven-game losing streak against the Gamecocks (5-3, 3-1).
It certainly will be a daunting task. JSU is the nation's 15th-ranked Division I-AA team and boasts one of the America's premier quarterbacks in senior Ryan Perrilloux, the heralded former LSU transfer who leads all of Division I in passing efficiency during his second season at JSU.
"They're a great football team," Samuel said.
JSU, which is ineligible for the OVC title and Division I-AA playoffs because of NCAA Academic Progress Rate penalties, has only been beaten by one Division I-AA squad.
That loss came Oct. 24 when OVC leader Eastern Illinois pulled off a 28-20 upset in Jacksonville, Ala. JSU has won its other three conference games by an average of 32 points.
Crowe said the Gamecocks have put their lone OVC defeat behind them. They bounced back last week with a 28-10 victory at Austin Peay.
"I think we are back from the disappointment from a couple of weeks ago," Crowe said. "I saw nothing but go forward from the time that game was over. We still have work to finish and we appear to be headed that way."
Two of JSU's losses were to Division I-A teams, 37-17 at nationally ranked Georgia Tech and 19-9 at Florida State in a game the Gamecocks led until less than one minute remained.
"Any time you take a team that can hold up against Florida State and Georgia Tech, those types of teams, you're dealing with a high-level program," said Samuel, whose squad is among eight in Division I-AA to have not beaten a Division I-AA opponent.
JSU leads the OVC in the four major team statistical categories.
The Gamecocks are first in scoring offense (34 points per game), scoring defense (16.4), total offense (421.5 yards per game) and total defense (278.2).
Perrilloux is having a monster season. The winner of five OVC offensive player of the week awards this year has completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,730 yards, with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Perrilloux, a solid NFL prospect, is also a threat to run, having rushed for 220 yards and five touchdowns.
"He's got a strong arm, he's got the good size, he has the ability to escape," Samuel said. "He's throwing a good ball. I think his decision making is so much better this year than last year."
Samuel emphasized that Perrilloux is not the only dangerous offensive weapon JSU has. The Gamecocks are also loaded defensively.
"They've got a nice running game and a very good corps of receivers," Samuel said. "They might have the best defense in the league."
Samuel said that doesn't mean an upset is out of the question. He knows the Redhawks are excited to face one of the nation's top teams and won't back down from the challenge.
"Everybody's beatable," he said.