Tennessee-Martin held off the Redhawks for a 38-30 victory
MARTIN, Tenn. -- It was hard to imagine Southeast Missouri State having a chance to force overtime considering how Saturday's game started.
But that's what happened after the Redhawks staged a furious rally that threatened to wipe out first-half deficits of 21-0 and 28-3.
But the Redhawks eventually ran out of time and downs, which allowed host Tennessee-Martin to hold on for a 38-30 victory.
"The second half we all came together as one, as a team," said Southeast redshirt freshman wide receiver Spencer Davis, who scored his first two collegiate touchdowns. "I think if there were a couple of more seconds on the clock, it might have been different."
Southeast fell to 2-6 overall and 2-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Redhawks are assured of a losing season the year after winning the program's first OVC title.
UTM improved to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the OVC. The Skyhawks' three losses have been by a total of seven points. They held leads with less than two minutes left before faltering in their two conference defeats.
"We just waited too long to start playing hard," said junior linebacker Blake Peiffer, who had 15 tackles to continue his streak of leading Southeast in every contest this season. "We came out strong the second half. If we had done that all game we've have been all right."
Southeast senior quarterback Matt Scheible said the Redhawks have failed to meet the challenge on the road this year. They consistently have found themselves trailing early by sizable margins.
The Redhawks finished their road schedule winless in five attempts. They have not held a lead on the road all season.
"The first half was just dismal again. We were just flat," said Scheible, who threw three touchdown passes. "When we're on the road, it seems like we struggle to find energy."
Southeast rallied several times but still found itself behind 38-23 in the late going.
Scheible's 11-yard touchdown pass to Davis on a fourth-and-7 play made it 38-30 with 3 minutes, 57 seconds left. The score was set up by sophomore Matt Bell's career-long 47-yard reception.
"We knew it would be a fourth-quarter game," UTM coach Jason Simpson said. "I didn't want them to have the ball in the red zone, especially with their quarterback."
The Redhawks elected to kick away, and UTM picked up one first down, which bled crucial time off the clock.
Southeast's defense ultimately held, and the Redhawks got the ball back with 54 seconds left and no timeouts remaining.
After two incompletions, Scheible hit sophomore D.J. Foster for 17 yards to the UTM 45 with 25 seconds left.
A 2-yard pass to Davis and a Scheible spike left 12.7 seconds. Two more incompletions sealed Southeast's fate.
"We practice the two-minute [drill] every Thursday," Scheible said. "They were dropping eight [into coverage]. It's hard to find holes, but that's no excuse."
Southeast forced a three-and-out on UTM's first offensive drive of the game. The Skyhawks scored touchdowns on their next four possessions to lead 21-0 less than three minutes into the second quarter and 28-3 late in the half.
Scheible hit sophomore tight end Art Mueller on a 2-yard touchdown pass with just 5 seconds left before the break. It was Mueller's first collegiate TD.
Junior Drew Geldbach, who earlier kicked a 50-yard field goal and was short on another attempt from that distance, missed the extra point to leave the Redhawks behind 28-9.
Senior safety Bryan Blanfort's first interception of the season led to a Southeast drive that ended with redshirt freshman fullback Ron Coleman's 5-yard run to make it 28-16 with 5:21 left in the third quarter.
"It was a blessing we were still in the game," said Coleman, who is tied for second on the squad with three touchdowns. "We showed a lot of heart. We fought for it."
It looked like the Skyhawks had opened plenty of breathing room when they went ahead 35-16 in the first minute of the final period.
But Davis and Scheible hooked up for a 33-yard touchdown to cut Southeast's deficit to 35-23 with nearly 12 minutes left.
The Redhawks stayed strong but could not finish the comeback.
"We didn't play with enough energy the first half. That's the bottom line," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "I wasn't really proud of the first half, but I was proud of the second half. They could have folded up shop."