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- 2016 All-Missourian Boys Basketball (04/29/16)
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Defensive touchdowns help Southeast Missouri State football team stay in game early
Southeast Missouri State's defense struggled mightily in the first half Saturday night.
But the Redhawks' defense accomplished something no Southeast unit had done since the program moved up to the Football Championship Subdivision level in 1991.
Southeast returned two interceptions for touchdowns, both coming in the second quarter and both helping keep the Redhawks within striking distance of visiting Tennessee Tech.
Those "pick sixes" proved to be vital as Southeast began Ohio Valley Conference play with a thrilling 41-38 double-overtime win over defending OVC tri-champion Tennessee Tech.
"The defense really dug us out of that first half, scoring almost half our points," redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Lathrop said.
Southeast's defense actually scored more than half of the Redhawks' first-half points as they trailed just 24-21 at the break despite being outgained 405 to 146 in total yardage.
Tech led 17-7 early in the second quarter and appeared ready to build on its advantage.
But senior linebacker Darrick Borum intercepted a short pass and made a nice move along the sideline on his way to a 41-yard touchdown return.
"Referring back to my old high school offensive prowess," said a smiling Borum, who added that he played wide receiver at Marion (Ill.) High School.
It was Borum's fifth career interception and second of the season.
Tech drove inside Southeast's 5-yard line on its next possession. On third-and-goal, senior safety Branden Spann stepped in front of a pass at the goal line and was off to the races.
Spann's touchdown return officially was listed as 100 yards.
"I was just thinking don't get caught," Spann said with a laugh.
Spann, in his first year as a starter, had his first collegiate interception last week at SIU.
"I just try to make plays to help the offense, help my team win," he said.
The two touchdowns off interceptions brought Southeast from a 17-7 deficit into a 21-17 lead and kept the Redhawks from perhaps getting buried early by Tech's offensive onslaught.
"We started making some great breaks on the ball," Borum said. "[Spann] had an incredible break on the ball."
Added Spann after the scintillating victory: "I'm still soaking it all in -- two overtimes. ... I wasn't expecting that at all. It's a good way to start conference."
Terrell leads offense
There is something about the Eagles that brings out the best in Southeast senior tailback Levi Terrell.
Terrell rushed for a career-high 171 yards on 25 carries. His previous career-best rushing performance came last year at Tech when he piled up 154 yards.
"I knew that coming in," Terrell said after his second 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Terrell, as is usually the case, gained many of his yards Saturday after contact.
"He's going to run hard all the time. He's a great effort guy," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said.
Lathrop, despite throwing his first interception of the season and losing a fumble, had a strong second half and overtime. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 62 yards on 21 carries and scored from one yard out.
"Scotty's going to be all right," Samuel said.
Junior wide receiver D.J. Foster caught all of Lathrop's completions. Their touchdown connections covered 29 yards early in the game and 25 yards in the first overtime.
Tech senior quarterback Tre Lamb completed 38 of 57 passes for a school-record 481 yards and three touchdowns but he was intercepted three times.
Junior wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, a Tennessee transfer, set school records for Tech with 18 catches for 303 yards.
Finally some sacks
Southeast had its first quarterback sacks of the season, coming up with three.
Senior defensive end Alonzo Nevarez was credited with 1.5 sacks. Senior defensive tackle Taylor Ramsey had a sack and senior defensive end Justin Love was credited with a half-sack.
All-American senior linebacker Blake Peiffer from Jackson High School had his second straight double-figure tackle performance with 15, including two tackles for loss. He also forced a fumble.
Borum and junior linebacker Dylan Flannery followed with nine tackles apiece. Nevarez had two tackles for loss.
* Sophomore fullback Brandon Beck, a Jackson High School graduate who made his first collegiate start last week at SIU, started again Saturday in place of injured sophomore Ron Coleman (knee).
* Southeast struggled to stop the opposition on third down for the second straight week. Tech converted 11 of 19 a week after SIU made good on 11 of 17. But the Eagles were only 4 of 9 after halftime.
* The Redhawks were penalized just one time for only nine yards. The Eagles were flagged 10 times for 104 yards.
* Southeast, after facing one of the OVC's defending tri-champions in Tech, takes on another Saturday when the Redhawks visit Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks opened league play with a 51-21 loss at Eastern Kentucky, the other 2011 tri-champion.