Down-to-the-wire games have been the norm when Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee Tech square off on the football field.
Both coaches anticipate nothing different Saturday when Southeast (1-2) and Tech (2-1) begin their Ohio Valley Conference schedules with a 6 p.m. kickoff at Houck Stadium.
"They say styles make fights. ... I think these teams really match up very well with each other," Southeast seventh-year coach Tony Samuel said. "We've had a history of close games. I expect another great game."
Eight of the previous nine matchups have been decided by seven points or less. Tech has won five of the past six, including last year's 38-31 decision in Cookeville, Tenn., when the Eagles scored a touchdown with under three minutes left to break a 31-31 tie.
"Tony and I have been here about the same time. Boy, we've had some great games the last five years," Tech sixth-year coach Watson Brown said. "They've all gone to the wire, every one of them. I imagine it'll be another one."
Last year's Tech victory, in the OVC opener for both squads, helped propel the Eagles to a three-way share of the championship and the league's automatic playoff berth. It was Tech's frst conference title since 1976.
"It was fantastic, a great ride," Brown said. "It doesn't mean a whole lot at this point."
Brown does believe the experience his key returning players gained last year should help them this season as Tech attempts to repeat.
Topping the list of the Eagles' returning standouts is senior quarterback Tre Lamb, who plays bigger than his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame might suggest.
Lamb, a third-year starter, helped the 2011 Eagles break nine team records, including points scored in a season (355).
"We rely on him so much," Brown said. "Two things, his leadership and his play-making ability when the heat's on. He's going to have to play well Saturday night."
Lamb threw for 2,342 yards last year, completing 65.2 percent with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Lamb is the OVC's top-rated passer with a 172.6 efficiency that ranks fourth nationally. He has completed 67.6 percent (50 of 74) for 659 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
Lamb had a big performance against Southeast last year, completing 27 of 37 for 283 yards and a TD.
"He's quick, he's mobile, he's accurate," Samuel said. "He's able to escape and throw the ball on the run."
Lamb has several dangerous receivers, led by junior Da'Rick Rogers, a former high school teammate who has averaged 18.4 yards on 11 receptions and scored three touchdowns.
Rogers is a former all-Southeastern Conference selection who transferred to Tech the week of this season's opener after he was suspended indefinitely by Tennessee for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
The 6-3, 206-pound Rogers led Tennessee in receptions (67), receiving yards (1,040) and touchdowns (nine) last year.
"He's a very good receiver. He's very talented, obviously," Samuel said.
Senior tailback Adam Urbano, who also played with Lamb and Rogers in high school at Calhoun, Ga., ranks second in the OVC with 312 yards rushing. He is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has scored three touchdowns.
"They've got a nice set of running backs," Samuel said.
Senior linebacker Marcus Edwards is among Tech's defensive headliners with 14.5 career quarterback sacks. He has Tech's only sack this season.
"They're a good, attacking defense. They're quick," Samuel said.
Last season's meeting between the squads was a shootout, Tech piling up 511 yards of offense and Southeast recording 495 yards.
Southeast senior tailback Levi Terrell had a big performance against Tech in 2011, rushing for 155 yards on 15 carries and scoring three touchdowns. His 40-yard TD run with under six minutes left forged a 31-31 tie.
"We haven't stopped them the last two years," said Brown, whose squad lost at Southeast 23-21 in 2010 during the Redhawks' OVC championship season. "We had to outscore them last year.
"They look just the same to me. They're running the football very well, throwing controlled passes. I'm impressed with them."