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Southeast Missouri State football team beats Tennessee Tech in double overtime
College football games don't get much crazier or wilder than what took place Saturday night at Houck Stadium.
Host Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee Tech, meeting in their Ohio Valley Conference opener, each would have had ample reason to kick itself for letting one get away.
Only Tech was left feeling the pain after the Redhawks squeezed out an incredible 41-38 double-overtime victory in front of an announced 8,327 fans on Family Weekend.
"One of the wilder games in my career. It was amazing, the seesaw of it all," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "We weren't surprised. Any time we play Tech that's what it boils down to."
Eight of the previous nine matchups between the teams had been decided by seven points or less. Tech had won five of the past six, including last year's 38-31 decision in Cookeville, Tenn.
Southeast turned the tables this time against the defending OVC tri-champions. Both squads are 2-2 overall.
"I'm happy as can be," redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Lathrop said. "To go through a game with your teammates like that. ... The ultimate bond."
It was Southeast's fifth overtime game since moving up to the Football Championship Subdivision level in 1991 and first overtime contest since 2008. The Redhawks are 4-1 in overtime games.
"Definitely a lot of ups and downs," said senior tailback Levi Terrell after a contest that featured six lead changes and three ties. "It's good to come out with a win."
Southeast ultimately prevailed on senior Drew Geldbach's 34-yard field goal on the first possession of the second overtime. The boot appeared to be tipped and knuckled over the cross bar.
"The kick got tipped a little bit. Lucky it went through," Geldbach said. "It's my first overtime game I've ever played in. I just have to stay calm like any other kick."
Tech had a chance to win it on its possession in the second overtime but the Eagles were stuffed on a third-and-1 play from the 16-yard line.
Zach Sharp then missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt. His low, pressured kick never made it to the goal posts, setting off a wild Southeast celebration.
"We had great penetration [on the third-and-1]," Samuel said. "Great push on that low kick. I was actually getting ready for a third overtime."
Tech struck first in overtime after Southeast won the toss and elected play defense first. The Eagles, starting at the Redhawks' 25-yard line, scored on a 3-yard run by senior quarterback Tre Lamb to go ahead 38-31.
The Redhawks answered on the first play of their first OT possession when Lathrop hit junior wide receiver D.J. Foster for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Southeast, after seeing Tech take a 31-28 lead with just under nine minutes left in regulation, forged a 31-31 tie on Geldbach's 39-yard field goal with 3 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.
"When my number's called I try to do what I can," said Geldbach, who is 7 for 8 on field goals this season.
The Redhawks were poised to win the game at the end of regulation when senior safety Tylor Brock came up with Southeast's third interception of the night at the Tech 33-yard line.
But on second-and-7 from the 20, with the clock ticking under a minute and Tech having two timeouts left, Terrell -- who had a spectacular night with a career-high 171 yards rushing on 25 carries -- fumbled. Tech recovered and it was on to overtime.
"That was on me. I'm glad the defense came out and saved me," Terrell said.
About the only thing that saved Southeast in the first half were two interception returns for touchdowns on consecutive Tech second-quarter possessions that turned a 17-7 deficit into a 21-17 lead.
Senior linebacker Darrick Borum returned the first interception 41 yards and senior safety Branden Spann took the second back 100 yards.
"The pick sixes were big," Samuel said.
Especially because the Redhawks could not slow down Tech's potent passing attack in the first half, particularly the combination of Lamb and junior Da'Rick Rogers.
Rogers is a former all-Southeastern Conference performer at Tennessee who is regarded as a likely NFL draft pick. He transferred to Tech the week of this season's opener after he was suspended indefinitely by Tennessee for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Rogers caught 11 passes in his first three games this year. He had 12 receptions for 258 yards and two touchdowns Saturday -- all in the first half.
"Kind of helpless really to stop that kind of guy," Samuel said. "He was amazing. We were hoping he'd get tired. That was our only chance."
Tech piled up 405 first-half yards while limiting Southeast to 146 as the Redhawks had the ball for only 6:58.
Southeast's defense fared much better in the second half and the overtimes while the offense got going. Tech finished with 560 yards to 357 for the Redhawks.
Rogers wound up with 18 catches for 303 yards, both school records, but the Redhawks were satisfied that they kept him somewhat under control after the break.
"In the first half we couldn't get a hold on No. 21," Spann said.
Tech scored with just 18 seconds left in the opening half to enter the intermission ahead 24-21 before things went back and forth the rest of the way.
"This is a great win for us," Geldbach said. "We've got a long season ahead of us, but it's a good place to start."