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Redhawks improve to 3-0 in OVC
Southeast improved to 3-0 in the OVC with a victory over a perennial nemesis
CHARLESTON, Ill. -- Southeast Missouri State's season of football firsts continued in a place that had been a virtual house of horrors for the Redhawks.
Southeast had not won at Eastern Illinois since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 1991, losing seven times.
The Redhawks also never had posted victories in their first three OVC games.
Check both items off the Redhawks' to-do list following Saturday's 28-13 triumph at O'Brien Field.
"This is huge for SEMO," said sophomore safety Tylor Brock, who intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown. "We're trying to get used to this, but we can't get too carried away."
Southeast improved to 4-1 overall and a first-place 3-0 in the OVC with its fourth straight win and its third consecutive road victory.
Since moving to Division I-AA in 1991, Southeast's only other four-game winning streak and three-game road winning streak came in 1994.
"It's definitely awesome to be part of something like this, breaking records," junior quarterback Matt Scheible said. "But it's work. You just can't magically do this. We've worked hard."
The Redhawks' three conference victories are their most under fifth-year coach Tony Samuel and their most since the 2004 squad went 3-5. Their four wins equal the most under Samuel.
"It's a big win for the university and the coaching staff. They did a good job preparing us all week," said senior tailback Henry Harris, who had his fourth straight 100-yard rushing performance with 179 yards on 27 carries while scoring two touchdowns.
Defending OVC champion EIU -- which is off to its worst start since 1977 -- fell to 0-5 and 0-3 in the league. The Panthers had beaten Southeast six straight times.
"We knew they were better than an 0-4 team," said sophomore linebacker Darrick Borum, who had a big performance with two sacks and an interception. "We knew this would be a really tough game."
It was, despite the 15-point margin of victory.
Southeast, trailing 10-7 at halftime, used two third-quarter touchdowns -- one on defense by Brock -- in a span of less than six minutes to turn the tide.
The Redhawks drove 60 yards in eight plays after taking the opening kickoff of the second half. Scheible's 1-yard sneak just 3 minutes, 25 seconds into the period put Southeast up for good at 14-10.
Brock then put EIU in a two-score hole as he intercepted a pass in the flat by true freshman quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and had clear sailing to the end zone. Brock's 48-yard return with 6:05 left in the third quarter made it 21-10.
"Their quarterback was staring down receivers all day," Brock said. "I was praying he would throw it my way."
"That was probably the play of the game," Samuel said.
EIU made it 21-13 with a field goal early in the fourth quarter, but Harris -- who earlier had a kickoff return of 45 yards -- returned the ensuing kickoff 37 yards to the Panthers' 49.
Southeast scored in six plays, Harris going in from 8 yards out with 6:10 remaining to nail down the victory.
"This is phenomenal," said junior defensive end Steve Hendry, who had a key fourth-quarter sack. "We knew it would be a physical, four-quarter game."
That's why Harris said the Redhawks were confident even though they trailed at halftime.
"Coach says all the time it's a four-quarter game. We knew we still had the second half," said Harris, whose 2-yard touchdown run on the Redhawks' first possession gave them a 7-0 lead.
Samuel, while pleased with the victory, was his usual even-keel self.
"You always celebrate the wins, no question about that," he said. "But we can't get too high or too low. If you do that in this league, you'll be in trouble."