The Redhawks held fifth-ranked Southern Illinois to 255 yards and two offensive touchdowns during a 24-21 upset victory that marked the program's first win over a top-five team since moving up to Division I-AA in 1991.
"The defense played great, making so many stops," junior quarterback Matt Scheible said.
After SIU took a 21-3 lead late in the third quarter, Southeast's defense forced two consecutive punts. Then after the Redhawks rallied to go ahead, the defense came up with a turnover that led to Southeast running out the clock.
"The defense has been amazing," senior linebacker Joshua Jackson said. "We've had great play from so many people."
"They kept giving us the ball back," Scheible said.
Southeast's defensive performance was a far cry from last year, when the potent Salukis piled up 475 yards during a 42-24 win in Cape Girardeau.
That was part of a four-game stretch that saw SIU outscore Southeast 170-57.
"Our defense just keeps getting better and better," junior linebacker Philip Klaproth said.
"We're just motivated," sophomore linebacker Darrick Borum said. "We just play well together and we're getting better and better each week."
Senior rover Aris Bowen led Southeast with nine tackles. Senior linebacker Justin Woodlief and sophomore safety Tylor Brock both added seven tackles.
Borum, who is from nearby Marion, Ill., and missed most of last season with an injury, led Southeast with two tackles for loss and added a sack.
Klaproth had a sack, as did junior defensive end Steve Hendry. For Hendry, who saw limited action last year, it was his first collegiate sack.
Senior cornerback Aaron Grimes intercepted his second pass in two weeks while Brock came up with his first collegiate interception, which came in the closing minutes.
SIU never got the ball back after Brock's pick on a pass that he said was deflected by Borum.
Southeast's offense was up and down in the first half, missing out on some opportunities and finishing with 107 yards.
But the Redhawks' offense picked up things considerably in the second half, piling up 284 yards to finish with 391. Southeast scored on three straight possessions after falling behind 21-3.
"I was missing a lot of plays, but we finally got going," Scheible said.
Senior tailback Henry Harris had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance, gaining a career-high 142 yards on 17 carries. He scored Southeast's final two touchdowns, on runs of 14 and 67 yards.
Scheible, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 163 yards, hooked up with 6-foot-6 junior wide receiver Chantae Ahamefule seven times for 94 yards.
Ahamefule, among Southeast's top receivers the past two years, only had caught one pass for 3 yards during the Redhawks' first two games.
"I just wanted to give my team a spark," Ahamefule said.
Senior wide receiver Miles Edwards caught two passes, giving him 100 career receptions.