Redhawks have work to do before Purdue

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The 2011 Southeast Missouri State football team has a long way to go.

That was evident Saturday night, when the Redhawks opened their season with a 38-10 home loss to Southern Illinois.

The Salukis dominated virtually all areas.

Nobody said it was going to be easy for the Redhawks to have another strong season after last year's record-setting campaign. Especially after losing 14 starters, including three All-Americans.

Southeast's lines were hit hard by graduation, and SIU pretty much had its way up front. The Redhawks could not run the ball -- except for senior quarterback Matt Scheible -- and also could not stop either the run or the pass.

The good news for Southeast is that it was only one game -- there are 10 more left in the regular season -- and, while time will tell, the Salukis probably will be among the top squads the Redhawks face.

SIU sure looked the part Saturday while gaining revenge for last year's stunning upset loss to Southeast in Carbondale, Ill. I'll be surprised if the Salukis don't go on to have a good season.

As for the Redhawks, I wrote last week that it's not realistic for fans to expect them to duplicate their historic 2010 campaign.

But I also wrote that there is enough talent for Southeast supporters to realistically hope for a second straight winning season, which has not happened since the university moved to the Football Championship Subdivision level in 1991.

I still feel that way, but as Saturday proved, it won't be easy getting there.

Things won't get any easier for Southeast, which after an open date this week visits Purdue of the Big Ten Conference Sept. 17 for a $315,000 payday.

Purdue, which has been down to its third-string quarterback due to injury, needed a touchdown in the final minute to beat Middle Tennessee State 27-24 in its opener.

The Ohio Valley Conference football season got off to a rousing start Thursday night with a thrilling matchup in Jacksonville, Ala.

Tennessee-Martin led OVC preseason favorite Jacksonville State 23-10 in the fourth quarter, but the Gamecocks rallied for a 24-23 victory on a touchdown with 38 seconds left.

However, it was not all good news for the Gamecocks. Starting quarterback Marques Ivory suffered a fractured right fibula during the first half and underwent surgery Friday. He likely will miss the rest of the season but should be able to receive a medical redshirt.

JSU does have a solid backup in Coty Blanchard, the hero of last year's win at Ole Miss. He led Thursday's comeback.

The other seven OVC squads opened their seasons against nonconference opponents.

Winners, in addition to JSU, during the first weekend of play were Eastern Illinois, 33-26 over Illinois State, and Tennessee State, 33-7 over Southern.

Four conference squads suffered losses on the road against Football Bowl Subdivision squads. Eastern Kentucky was by far the most impressive as Kansas State needed a touchdown in the final two minutes to survive 10-7.

EKU played without starting quarterback T.J. Pryor, who has a broken bone in his hand. I don't know about Pryor's future status, but if the signal callers on two of the OVC's anticipated top squads miss significant time, that could really shake up the league race.

Murray State had a respectable outing in a 21-9 loss to Louisville. Cincinnati crushed Austin Peay 72-10, and Iowa rolled past Tennessee Tech 34-7.

The Missouri football team wasn't particularly impressive in its opener, but the Tigers did manage a 17-6 win against a Miami (Ohio) squad that ranks among the best in the Mid-American Conference.

MU figures to receive a severe test Friday night at highly regarded Arizona State in a nationally televised matchup.

James Franklin, the Tigers' new starting quarterback, showed plenty of promise, particularly with his ability to run. He should do nothing but get better.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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