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Redhawks avoid winless OVC season with 49-13 victory vs. Murray State
The Southeast Missouri State football team shook an eight-game losing streak with an offensive explosion Saturday at Houck Stadium.
The Redhawks avoided their first winless OVC season and gave coach Tony Samuel a 54th birthday to remember with a 49-13 victory over the Murray State Racers.
The 49 points were the most compiled by the Redhawks since their season-opening 72-3 nonconference rout of NAIA opponent Quincy University and more than the Redhawks' 39 total points scored in its four previous conference losses.
"Gosh, I've never been a part of something like that in my life," Southeast quarterback Matt Scheible said of the losing streak. "It was a struggle. It feels really good to get a win, though."
The game was won on both sides of the ball as the Redhawks piled up 480 yards of offense and held Murray State to 277 yards. The offensive yardage output was the highest since the opener and the points allowed was the lowest since that time.
It gave the Redhawks their first OVC victory since they closed the 2008 season with a 33-30 win against Austin Peay.
"It was a good birthday gift right here," Samuel said with smile. "That's all I need. Don't need a whole lot of gifts. This is a good one."
The Redhawks entered the game averaging nearly 170 yards rushing per game this season. With juniors Mike Jones and Henry Harris each topping the 100-yard mark and scoring two touchdowns apiece, the Redhawks finished with 302 yards on the ground.
"They played real hard," Samuel said of his team. "They were very intense. They realized this was their last opportunity to win a conference game. We started off so strong and went through so much adversity with different players going down. It was good for them to finish this way with the conference."
Senior linebacker Marvin Anderson led the defensive charge with two sacks of Racers freshman quarterback Casey Brockman and also had one tackle for loss. The sacks, which both came in the first half, were the first for Anderson with he Redhawks.
"All year the defense has been playing as hard as they can," Anderson said. "Finally today we were just able to put it all together. It was all about getting pressure on the quarterback, and we were able to do that today."
The defense limited the Racers to 88 yards rushing on 29 attempts in the game, and the Racers had just 96 yards total offense in the second half. The defense also forced a couple of holding calls and applied pressure on Brockman throughout the game.
"I was finally able to get to (Brockman)," Anderson said. "It felt good to put pressure on him. We had him running all day. He didn't know what to do. They're a good team and he'll be a good quarterback. He's young, but today the defense stepped up."
The matchup was between two teams with coaches on the hot seat. Southeast improved to 2-8 overall and 1-7 in the OVC, while Murray State fell to 3-7 and 2-5 in the OVC.
The Redhawks are 13-31 in Samuel's four seasons, while Murray State is 11-33 under Matt Griffin, also in his fourth season.
"Coach Samuel is going to be back," Anderson said. "I'm not worried about that. Coach Samuel is a great coach, the defensive staff, the offensive coaches. Nobody's worried about that. We've just got to play football right now."
Avoiding the winless conference season was foremost on the minds of the Redhawks.
"We started off saying we had to win this for the seniors," Harris said. "This was their last conference game, so we had to do it for the seniors. I think that really pumped a lot of people up."
Jones rumbled for all 116 of his yards on 14 second-half carries, while Harris gained 105 yards on 21 attempts.
"We should of been doing this all year," Jones said. "When people finally wake up and the light clicks on and we come together, we can do great things."
Scheible contributed 54 yards rushing, including a 16-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw in the final minute of the first half to stake Southeast to a 20-10 first-half lead. He also completed 7 of 13 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Chantae Ahamefule was the primary target as he hauled in two touchdowns for a career-high 150 yards.
Ahamefule had just one touchdown catch this season and his previous career high was 85 yards last season against Tennessee State.
"We've struggled a bit during the season," Ahamefule said. "What I like about what we did is we never gave up. We came together as one unit and we became a family. We kept fighting and fighting, and finally we came out a winner."
The Redhawks started off slow, but picked up momentum as the game progressed.
The Racers kicked a 40-yard field goal on their first possession, then struck for their lone touchdown on their next series.
The Redhawks had moved ahead 6-3 on a 2-yard run by Henry on their first possession, but the Racers regained a 10-6 lead on 33-yard scoring pass from Brockman to Rashad Daniels
Ahamefule's first touchdown catch Saturday went for 44 yards and put Southeast ahead for good at the 10:23 mark of the second quarter. Ahamefule also had a 31-yard reception on the three-play drive that covered 78 yards and staked Southeast to a 13-10 lead.
Southeast extended its lead to 20-10 just before halftime when Scheible and the offense took over at midfield with 43 seconds left after a 20-yard punt return from Harris.
On the first play, Scheible picked up 19 yards on a scramble when a flea flicker failed to fool the Racers.
"It was a home run (play) basically, but I just took off and got what I could," Scheible said. "The line blocked well so I had some running room there."
After a pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 16, Scheible scored on a quarterback draw.
Southeast rode the momentum into the second half, where it scored on four of its six possessions.
Ahamefule's second touchdown catch launched the eruption in spectacular fashion. The sophomore made a one-handed snare of a Scheible pass along the left sideline and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown play. Ahamefule made contact with cornerback John Jean-Baptiste as he made the left-handed grab around the 40, then covered the remaining distance down the sideline.
"He made me look good today," Scheible said. "I just put them up there for him. He's 6-5, I'm going to get it to him. He definitely showed his ability today."
Curtis Huge tacked on the extra point for a 27-10 lead at the 10:09 mark of the third quarter.
Murray State trimmed the lead to 27-13 on a 48-yard field goal by Kienan Cullen, then forced Southeast into a third-and-13 play from its own 22. However, Scheible found Walter Peoples for a 14-yard completion on third down.
"That was a huge play," Samuel said. "The more you can keep possession of the ball on offense, the more you can do that, the better off you are."
The completion was part of a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Henry with 13:15 left in the game that extended the lead to 34-13.
Jones broke loose for a 38-yard touchdown run less than two minutes later, then capped the game's scoring with a 7-yard scamper with 4:33 left.
Southeast closes its season at home on Saturday against regional rival Southern Illinois. The Salukis are ranked first and second in the two major Championship Subdivision (Div. I-AA) polls.