Southeast Missouri State's offense was clicking on all cylinders Saturday.
It's a good thing for the Redhawks, who needed nearly all of their season-high point and yardage totals to hold off pesky Central Methodist.
The Redhawks survived 55-44 in an entertaining shootout witnessed by an announced crowd of 3,211 at Houck Stadium.
Southeast, which was playing the first of three consecutive home contests to end the season, improved to 3-6. The Redhawks are 3-1 at Houck this year.
Central Methodist, from Fayette, Mo., fell to 5-4 and had a three-game winning streak snapped.
"They shouldn't hold their heads down at all because they played really well," Southeast junior linebacker Blake Peiffer said. "It was nice for us to get a win after we lost a tough one last week [38-30 at Tennessee-Martin]."
Saturday's game, which featured just one punt by each team, was the type of affair that leaves offensive players and coaches beaming, while defensive players and coaches can do nothing but cringe.
Southeast piled up 539 yards, split fairly evenly between the run (296) and pass (243). The Redhawks scored their most points since putting up 72 in the 2009 season opener against Division II Quincy.
CMU gained 436 yards, 337 coming on the ground behind the Eagles' deceptive triple-option attack that few teams run.
"I was concerned. We only had a week to prepare," Samuel said about defending CMU's offense. "I always like to give people credit. I thought they did a great job executing.
"Like I told the kids in the locker room, it's still three phases of football. Today, for us to get a win, the offense had to step up."
Southeast, which led all the way, built double-digit advantages ranging from 10 to 15 points eight times only to see CMU answer on virtually every occasion.
The squads combined to score on all but one of their 11 second-half possessions. The lone empty drive came when CMU got the ball with only 18 seconds left.
"I'm just very proud of our young men. I felt they fought to the finish," CMU coach Alan Dykens said. "SEMO has a great team and their coach does a great job with his kids.
"But they haven't faced anybody with this style of offense. It's tough to stop if you haven't seen it."
Southeast senior quarterback Matt Scheible passed for a career-high 243 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 11 of 21 attempts.
Scheible also had his fifth career 100-yard rushing performance and second this season with 112 yards on 17 carries. He scored once.
"Scheible's very good. We knew we had to stop him coming in," Dykens said. "We didn't know whether we had to focus on stopping him running or passing. We tried to do a little of both. He's a great athlete."
Scheible said he thought he would have some chances to throw deep with play-action passes based on the coverages CMU was using.
Scheible hit senior wide receiver Chantae Ahamefule with a 34-yard pass into the end zone just 4 minutes, 30 seconds into the game.
Scheible and senior wide receiver Aaron King hooked up on an almost identical play from 32 yards out with 7:31 left in the opening period for a 14-0 lead.
"We knew watching film they might come out and play our receivers man to man," said Scheible, who led the Redhawks to points on nine of their 10 possessions. "We thought we could take advantage of it."
Southeast was clinging to a 17-14 lead late in the first half when Scheible scored on a highlight-reel 19-yard run with just 4.5 seconds left. He barely stretched the ball across the goal line as he was being tackled.
"I just got lucky," said Scheible, never one to draw attention to himself. "My arm was long enough. That ball was like an inch over the goal line."
Scheible's touchdown that put up Southeast 24-14 at the intermission did little to faze the Eagles.
CMU junior running back Burton Iosefa, who gained 119 yards on 14 carries, ripped off a 61-yard touchdown run on the second offensive play of the third quarter to make it 24-20. Southeast true freshman Tim Hamm-Bey blocked the PAT.
"I thought that long run to start the third quarter really flipped the momentum," Samuel said. "At that point I knew we'd be in for a dogfight."
The shootout really picked up steam after that.
Southeast reached the end zone on a 9-yard run by redshirt freshman tailback Lennies McFerren, a 3-yard run by sophomore fullback Josh Nicks and a 65-yard catch-and-run by redshirt freshman wide receiver Spencer Davis.
It looked like the Redhawks might have put away CMU when redshirt freshman fullback Ron Coleman broke a 39-yard touchdown run for a 52-37 lead with 5:03 remaining.
CMU answered less than two minutes later to make it 52-44.
Things might have gotten really interesting when CMU recovered an onside kick -- only to have the play wiped out by an illegal procedure penalty.
"They said illegal formation, that we didn't have four guys lined up on the other side of the kicker," Dykens said. "I beg to differ."
Southeast recovered a second onside kick when Coleman pounced on the ball after it hit the turf and CMU had a shot at it.
The Redhawks picked up two first downs and used almost all the remaining 3:39 before sophomore Joe Vucic, Southeast's punter who filled in for injured junior kicker Drew Geldbach, booted a clinching 24-yard field goal with just 18 seconds to play.