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Southeast Missouri State defense forces six turnovers in win
Southeast Missouri State's defense came up with a whopping six turnovers during Saturday night's home opener.
The Redhawks needed virtually all of them, along with an overall solid defensive performance, to hold off Division II Mars Hill College 30-18.
"Besides a few busted assignments, I thought we played really well," senior linebacker Darrick Borum said about the defense.
Southeast coach Tony Samuel felt the same way, especially because the Redhawks' four turnovers put the defense in some bad situations.
"I thought our defense responded well to the majority of those turnovers and got some back," Samuel said.
Five of Southeast's six turnovers gained came on interceptions, two by senior safety Tylor Brock. He returned his first pick 64 yards in the opening half, evading several would-be tacklers.
Brock has eight career interceptions, the other six coming during his All-American sophomore season in 2010.
Borum recorded his fourth career interception.
Making their first career interceptions as Redhawks were sophomore cornerback Reggie Jennings and redshirt freshman backup safety Josh Freeman.
Freeman, from Poplar Bluff, Mo., might have kept the Lions from taking the lead with his pick. It came in the end zone late in the first half as Mars Hill, trailing 13-12, drove inside Southeast's 20-yard line.
"I think all of them were key, honestly," Brock said.
Southeast's biggest forced turnover probably came early in the third quarter on the Redhawks' lone fumble recovery.
Mars Hill, trailing 16-12, was driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown when Josh Young caught a pass for a first down at the Southeast 20.
But Brock stripped the ball loose and true freshman cornerback David Coley fell on it.
"That was a huge one," Samuel said.
Southeast's defense then held Mars Hill at bay until the Redhawks opened up some breathing room with two touchdowns to go ahead 30-12.
Coley made his first start during his second collegiate game in place of junior Cantrell Andrews, the Central High School graduate who was in uniform but did not play.
"Cantrell was nicked up against Central Michigan [in last week's season opener]. We decided to play [Coley]," Samuel said.
Coley performed well. In addition to the key fumble recovery, had six tackles and broke up a pass.
"He's a very good student of the game," Samuel said. "He played good for the first time [starting]."
Southeast sophomore wide receiver Spencer Davis had an interesting night.
Davis fumbled two first-half punts, with Mars Hill recovering both. One led to a touchdown.
But Davis also set up the touchdown that put Southeast ahead for good late in the first quarter with a 53-yard kickoff return.
And Davis led Southeast with five receptions for 49 yards.
"I thought he handled it well," Samuel said about the adversity.
Southeast gained 288 of its 402 total yards on the ground, while Mars Hill compiled 274 of its 367 total yards through the air.
Senior tailback Levi Terrell led Southeast rushers with 128 yards on 22 carries. Senior tailback Renard Celestin added 93 yards on just nine attempts and scored two touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Lathrop completed 12 of 21 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown to junior wide receiver D.J. Foster.
Borum and senior linebacker Blake Peiffer from Jackson High School tied for Southeast's lead in tackles with seven each. Borum also broke up two passes.
Brock matched Coley with six tackles.
* Southeast senior Drew Geldbach kicked three first-half field goals, a 32-yarder and a pair of 22-yarders. He was wide on a 25-yarder early in the fourth quarter that looked like it could have been tipped.
* Southeast punted five times in the second half after not punting at all during the first half. Junior Joe Vucic averaged 40 yards, twice pinning Mars Hill inside the 20.
* The Redhawks return to action Saturday, visiting Southern Illinois (0-2) for a 6 p.m. kickoff.