Similar squads to square off at Southeast Missouri State homecoming

Friday, October 21, 2011
Eastern Illinois' Chavar Watkins is taken down by a swarm of Southeast Missouri State defenders during their game earlier this month at Houck Stadium. (Kristin Eberts)

Southeast Missouri State and Austin Peay are coming off similar losses in which turnovers prevented both teams from having a shot at a big win.

The Redhawks and Governors both hope to take care of the ball much better when they square off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Houck Stadium in Southeast's homecoming game.

Defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Southeast (1-5, 1-3) is eighth in the nine-team league. Austin Peay (2-4, 2-2) is in a four-way tie for fourth place.

"I don't care what level, you just can't have them," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said about turnovers.

Southeast had six of them, two more than during the first five games combined, in last week's 41-17 loss at Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels scored 24 points off the miscues.

Austin Peay was just as generous in a 44-14 home loss to eighth-ranked Jacksonville State. The Govs also turned over the ball six times, with the Gamecocks returning three for touchdowns.

"You can't make mistakes against a good football team," Austin Peay coach Rick Christophel said. "You make mistakes, you're going to lose."

Samuel believes that if the teams can hang on to the ball, Saturday's game should be close and entertaining since both squads follow many of the same principles.

"Styles make a fight, that's what boxers say," Samuel said. "I think we're fairly similar. We do a lot of the same things. All the games we've played them tend to get real interesting. Always fourth quarter games.

"They're a gritty team. They're well coached. They play good, solid football. They're going to play hard and physical."

Austin Peay, which won just one OVC game last year, already has doubled that total. Both victories were at home. The Govs are responsible for Eastern Kentucky's only conference loss and beat a Tennessee State squad that clobbered Southeast 55-3.

"Those are two very good teams they beat," Samuel said. "That shows how capable they are."

The teams are similar in more ways than just style and last week's six turnovers.

Austin Peay is eighth and Southeast last in the nine-team conference in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

The Govs average 18.8 points per game and allow 42.5 per contest. The Redhawks score 16.3 points and give up 43.5.

Southeast ranks eighth in third-down conversions at 32.1 percent, with Austin Peay last at 26.6 percent.

Austin Peay has one of the OVC's top running backs who has burned Southeast in the past. That doesn't bode well for a Redhawks' defense that has struggled to stop the run. Southeast is allowing 241.5 yards rushing a game at 5.5 yards per attempt.

Senior Ryan White is the league's sixth-leading rusher with 460 yards. He has had an impressive career, leading the OVC with nearly 1,100 yards as a sophomore in 2009 and gaining almost 800 yards last year.

White piled up 228 yards during a 2009 Austin Peay victory at Houck Stadium in Southeast's homecoming game.

Southeast held White to 79 yards last year when the Redhawks posted a 41-24 win in Clarksville, Tenn., after trailing 14-0 in the first quarter and 14-13 at halftime.

"He's had a great career," Samuel said. "We couldn't stop him two years ago."

Junior quarterback Jake Ryan has thrown for 1,206 yards and 10 touchdowns, although he leads the OVC with 11 interceptions.

Junior Devin Stark ranks second in the league in receptions per game and receiving yards per game. He has caught 34 passes and scored five touchdowns.

"They've got playmakers on offense," Samuel said. "They've got an aggressive defense. This is going to be a real good challenge for both of us."

Southeast and Austin Peay have split their last four meetings, with the visiting team winning those contests.

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