Southeast Missouri State football team opens OVC play with loss

Sunday, September 25, 2011

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State looked nothing like the defending Ohio Valley Conference champions during its first two games that resulted in massive blowouts against top-notch opponents.

The Redhawks more closely resembled a highly competitive football team Saturday night when they opened OVC play at Tennessee Tech.

Unfortunately for the Redhawks, the result was the same. They fell to 0-3 with a wild 38-31 loss that was not decided until the closing moments.

Tech improved to 3-1 overall. The Eagles are 2-0 in OVC play for the first time since 2006.

"It was an old fashioned dogfight, both teams going back and forth," Southeast senior quarterback Matt Scheible said. "It's a tough loss to swallow."

Southeast, which returned just eight starters, had been outscored by a combined 97-10 against Football Championship Subdivision power Southern Illinois and Purdue of the Big Ten Conference.

Southeast, despite falling behind by 14 points twice in the second half, kept battling back against a Tech club that returned 21 starters.

"We fought as a team," senior linebacker Philip Klaproth said. "We lost as a team, but we fought hard."

Junior tailback Levi Terrell's tackle-breaking 40-yard touchdown run -- his third TD of the night -- with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left in the game forged a 31-31 tie. The score was set up when senior defensive end Steve Hendry recovered a fumble at the Tech 49-yard line.

"It's a tough loss. You always want to win," Terrell said. "But we can build on this."

Southeast, poised to claim a thrilling come-from-behind victory, could not come up with a defensive stop. Neither team was slowed much during a second half that saw both sides pile up 21 points.

"It seemed like whoever had the ball last was going to win," Scheible said.

A 36-yard kickoff return set up Tech in good field position at its 47-yard line. The Eagles scored with 2:38 left after averting near-disaster when Klaproth almost intercepted a pass.

"I made a good break and just dropped the ball," Klaproth said. "I might have scored, but they have some fast receivers."

The Redhawks, who took over on their 14-yard line after the kickoff, could only reach their 40 before a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

Tech bled all but 7 seconds off the clock before punting, leaving Southeast with a final play from its 11. The Redhawks tried a hook-and-lateral that reached midfield before a tackle as time expired.

"We kept fighting until the end," Southeast sophomore receiver D.J. Foster said.

Southeast, which never led and hasn't held a lead all season, allowed a touchdown with just 19 seconds left in the first half to trail 17-10 at the break.

Southeast then lost its first fumble of the season -- by Terrell -- on the opening possession of the second half. Tech drove 47 yards for a touchdown that made it 24-10.

Terrell's 12-yard run a few minutes later pulled Southeast within 24-17. His other TD, a 15-yarder, came in the first half.

The Redhawks fell back behind 31-17 before redshirt freshman fullback Ron Coleman's 1-yard TD early in the final period made it 31-24.

That led to the wild final six minutes that saw Southeast fall just short.

The Redhawks gained 495 yards, which surpassed their output from the first two games combined, compared to 511 yards for Tech.

"Tech has a very good team, a very good offense," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "I was proud of the way we fought back. We showed some things."

Southeast had a chance to grab its first lead of the season after a Tech gamble failed on the game's opening possession. The Eagles were stopped on fourth-and-1 at their own 40-yard line.

But Southeast failed to capitalize. The drive stalled, and junior Drew Geldbach's 49-yard field-goal attempt hit the crossbar and bounced back.

The Redhawks fought an uphill battle the rest of the night.

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