Close OVC games likely the norm for Southeast Missouri State football team

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Peiffer (Blake)

If Southeast Missouri State's Ohio Valley Conference opener is any indication, the Redhawks are in for another season during which their league games go to the wire.

The 2010 Redhawks were able to pull out most of those narrow contests, which led to their record-setting season that produced the program's first OVC title and playoff berth on any level.

The 2009 Redhawks dropped most of those close decisions, which resulted in a last-place OVC finish.

How the 2011 Redhawks fare in tightly contested games likely will determine the season's success.

"If you want to talk about close games, look at the record books of OVC games. It's not just us," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said Monday. "The players expect it. They're accustomed to it, not just me.

"From top to bottom, it's a very competitive league."

Southeast fell to 0-3 with Saturday's 38-31 loss at Tennessee Tech. The Redhawks trailed by 14 points twice in the second half before tying the contest. The Eagles scored the winning touchdown with less than three minutes remaining.

Samuel thought the Redhawks showed a lot to come back the way they did in Saturday's loss against what looks like one of the OVC's better teams. Tennessee Tech improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play.

"I didn't sense any panic," Samuel said. "This was a tough loss. We had our opportunities."

Southeast got its offense rolling Saturday after being outscored 97-10 in its first two games against FCS power Southern Illinois and Purdue of the Big Ten Conference.

The Redhawks piled up 495 yards Saturday after being held to a total of 414 yards in their opening two contests.

"Once we got going, I was really impressed with our offense," Samuel said. "We were able to spread the ball around."

Southeast rushed for 320 yards, led by junior tailback Levi Terrell with 154 yards on 15 carries. He scored three touchdowns, including a 40-yarder that pulled the Redhawks into a 31-31 tie with less than six minutes left.

"He ran hard," Samuel said. "He ran very well."

Southeast's offensive line together its best performance of the season.

"We had some guys step up," Samuel said. "We showed an awful lot of improvement, but we're still not where we need to be."

On the down side, the Redhawks allowed 511 yards. Samuel knows his defense must get better.

"We made strides, but defensively we really have to improve," Samuel said.

All things considered, the Redhawks believe they took a step in the right direction Saturday.

"I feel like we took a huge step," senior linebacker Philip Klaproth said after Saturday's game.

The next step the Redhawks hope to take is into the win column. They play their first OVC home game Saturday when Eastern Illinois (1-3, 0-2) visits Houck Stadium for a 6 p.m. Family Weekend matchup.

Peiffer on fire

Junior linebacker Blake Peiffer, a Jackson High School graduate, leads the OVC and ranks fourth nationally in tackles per game.

Peiffer has 37 tackles after Saturday's career-high 17. He has led the Redhawks in tackles all three games this year following a solid sophomore season.

"This is the first time he's carrying the load," Samuel said. "I think he's going to get better."

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