Southeast Missouri State football team visits winless Austin Peay

Friday, October 26, 2012

Southeast Missouri State coach Tony Samuel has good reason to expect a difficult time Saturday even though winless Austin Peay is being outscored by an average of 34 points per game.

The Redhawks haven't had things easy with the Governors in recent years despite winning nine of the past 11 meetings.

Southeast (2-5, 1-3 Ohio Valley Conference) and Austin Peay (0-7, 0-5) will square off for the Govs' homecoming game at 4 p.m. in Clarksville, Tenn.

"I don't remember there ever being an easy game against them," Samuel said. "All the games are close. They're a dangerous team."

The Redhawks squeezed out a 17-13 victory over Austin Peay in Cape Girardeau last year, rallying from a 10-7 halftime deficit.

Southeast, during its historic 2010 season that featured the program's first OVC title and first playoff berth on any level, trailed the host Govs 14-0 early and 14-13 at halftime before pulling away to win 41-24.

The Redhawks lost to the Govs 24-14 in 2009 in Cape Girardeau. The teams split the two meetings before that, both decided by three points.

"They always play us tough. I expect another tough game," said Samuel, whose team is riding a three-game losing streak. "You can't just look at the records and the scores."

The record and the scores have not been kind to the Govs, who have lost nine straight games by at least 20 points for the first time in program history.

Samuel points out that the Govs were dealt a tough hand to begin the season. Austin Peay opened on the road against two Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, getting blasted 49-10 at Western Kentucky and 42-7 at Virginia Tech.

Things haven't gotten any better.

The Govs have lost five straight OVC games -- by 50, 38, 31, 25 and 20 points. They are averaging just 11.4 points per contest while allowing an average of 45.4 points.

"They played those money games. That's always a tough deal, to play two of those," Samuel said. "They've had some injuries, but they've had a bye week, which gives you some time to heal up. They'll give us their best shot."

Austin Peay coach Rick Christophel said the Govs have been able to maintain a positive attitude despite their struggles.

"I've got a good group of kids. They've continued to practice hard and go each week really hard. That'll help us coming to this game," Christophel said. "It's been a struggle. We have to keep chopping wood."

The Govs rank last in the OVC in scoring offense, scoring defense and total offense (293.1 yards per game). They are eighth out of nine squads in total defense (503.9 yards per game).

But the Govs do have their share of talent, led by four-year starting quarterback Jake Ryan. The senior has completed 50.5 percent of his passes (111 of 220) for 1,062 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Senior Devin Stark is one of the OVC's top wide receivers. He has caught 39 passes, fifth-most in the conference, for an 11.5-yard average. He leads the Govs with three touchdowns and ranks sixth in career receptions at Austin Peay.

"Their quarterback is playing well, and they've got a very good, big receiver they can go to," Samuel said.

The Govs also had one of the OVC's top rushers through five games in senior Wesley Kitts, who gained 503 yards. But he has not played the past two contests after being hit with a team suspension and is not likely to see action today.

Reco Williams, a 248-pound redshirt freshman, has picked up much of the slack in Kitts' absence with 219 yards. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

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