Southeast Missouri State football team looks to avenge lopsided loss to Tennessee St.

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's unlikely the Southeast Missouri State football team requires extra motivation for any game it plays, let alone an Ohio Valley Conference contest.

But if the Redhawks do need a boost for Saturday's 6 p.m. matchup with Tennessee State at Houck Stadium, they only have to look back at last year's meeting with the Tigers.

TSU put a major hurt on the Redhawks, romping 55-3 in Nashville, Tenn., to equal Southeast's most lopsided OVC loss since joining the league in 1991. Southeast's other low-water mark came during that inaugural OVC season when host Middle Tennessee State rolled 52-0.

"They whipped our butts if you want to be totally honest about it," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "We were never in the football game."

Southeast (2-3, 1-1 OVC), despite winning the last five games against TSU played in Cape Girardeau, will have its hands full trying to gain revenge for that 2011 debacle.

TSU (6-0, 2-0) is off to its best start since 2001 and has already clinched its first winning record since 2008.

"They're a very good team," Samuel said. "They're getting it done."

The Tigers, ranked 18th and 20th in the two major Football Championship Subdivision national polls, are the only OVC team without a league loss and they are among just nine undefeated FCS squads across the country.

"I think it's good for the program, for the university," third-year TSU coach Rod Reed said about the Tigers' perfect record and national ranking. "Our kids have something to be proud of right now, but it's still early."

Reed has done an impressive job rebuilding TSU's program. The Tigers did not win an OVC game during Reed's first season in 2010 before improving to 4-4 in conference play a year ago.

"Coaches knew they were a young team last year," Samuel said. "We expected them to be major contenders."

TSU is coming off a thrilling 23-20 home win over OVC preseason favorite Eastern Kentucky.

The Tigers rallied from a 20-10 deficit in the final nine minutes and drove 68 yards for the winning touchdown that came with eight seconds left.

"Our kids are so young right now, we're numb to the fact we're down," said Reed, whose squad that starts just five seniors has trailed after the first quarter in four of its past five games and has scored only 17 of its 173 points in the opening period. "We just keep playing."

Quarterback Michael German burst onto the scene last year as a redshirt freshman, throwing for nearly 1,900 yards. He had a big game against Southeast, completing 20 of 34 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.

German has not experienced any kind of sophomore jinx so far. He has completed 60.4 percent (102 of 169) for 1,365 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

"He's got a lot of weapons, but he's very talented," Samuel said. "He's pulled it all together for them."

German's favorite targets are senior wide receiver Travis James (25 receptions, 13.4-yard average) and sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard (23 receptions, 14.7-yard average, three touchdowns).

Leonard caught eight passes as true freshman at Florida last year before transferring to TSU.

The Tigers have a strong running game led by junior tailback Trabis Ward, the OVC's No. 3 rusher with 641 yards. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has scored a league-high nine touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman tailback Telvin Hooks has rushed for 381 yards and is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt.

TSU's defense, despite starting no seniors and just three juniors, is allowing league lows of 14.5 points and 323.5 yards per game.

"Their offense is very talented and experienced. They're able to throw and run the ball," Samuel said. "Their defense is young and talented."

Reed feels the same way about the Redhawks and he expects a major challenge, especially after what happened between the teams last season and because TSU will be playing its first OVC road game.

"They'll be ready for us," Reed said.

Noteworthy

* Saturday's game is billed as "Red Out," with fans encouraged to wear red.

Every fan who enters the stadium wearing red will receive a free raffle ticket. One ticket will be randomly drawn at the end of the first half, and that fan will get to kick a field goal during halftime for a chance to win $10,000, courtesy of Wood & Huston Bank.

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