Southeast Missouri State football team will play Murray St. in season finale

Friday, November 16, 2012

Southeast Missouri State and Murray State are struggling to the finish line as they wind up losing seasons.

But both coaches say that doesn't mean their teams will lack proper motivation for Saturday's season-ending football game. The kickoff in Murray, Ky., is set for 1 p.m.

"Murray is close [in proximity]. We have had the rivalry with them in all sports. That alone should get us going," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said.

Said MSU coach Chris Hatcher: "You play because you're a competitor. You play for pride. We want to go out and prove we're better than SEMO. I'm sure they want to do the same. I don't believe [motivation] will be any factor at all. We expect a big battle."

Southeast (3-7, 2-5 Ohio Valley Conference) has lost five of its last six games while MSU (4-6, 3-4) has dropped three of its last four.

The Redhawks are seventh in the nine-team OVC, just behind the Racers. A Southeast win will forge a sixth-place tie between the squads.

"Every game you play means something," Samuel said. "I think the kids will be up."

Southeast's defense will definitely have to be up because, for the second straight week, it will face one of the nation's premier offenses and elite quarterbacks.

After dealing with Eastern Illinois -- which clinched the OVC title by rallying past visiting Southeast 39-20 last week -- and junior signal caller Jimmy Garoppolo, now the Redhawks must contend with All-American senior Casey Brockman.

Brockman, the preseason OVC offensive player of year, is the conference's career leader in passing yards with 9,801 and total offense with 10,253.

Brockman has completed 69 percent (339 of 491) for 3,540 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions this year. The yardage, completions and attempts are all OVC single-season records. He is just 53 yards away from breaking the league's single-season total offense record and he is on pace to surpass the completion percentage mark.

Brockman leads the nation in completions, ranks second in passing yards, is third in completion percentage and sixth in TD passes.

Earlier this year against Tennessee-Martin, Brockman set the OVC single-game record by firing eight TD passes.

"He has the lively arm. He's a big kid and he's very mobile," Samuel said. "He's been good for a long time. I think he's a pro prospect."

Eight MSU players have caught at least 23 passes, led by Walter Powell, who ranks third nationally in receptions. The junior has set school records with 90 catches for 1,162 yards. He has scored 10 touchdowns.

Powell is also one of the OVC's premier returners, averaging 23.5 yards per kickoff return and 10.8 yards per punt return. He has returned one punt for a touchdown.

"He's fast, very explosive," Samuel said. "He's also very dangerous on returns."

MSU also has two solid running backs in junior Ohio State transfer Jaamal Berry (588 yards, 6.8 yards per carry, seven touchdowns) and junior Duane Brady (550 yards 5.0 yards per carry, eight touchdowns).

The Racers rank seventh nationally in scoring and fifth in total offense with averages of 38.9 points and 495.8 yards per game. Both figures are second in the OVC behind Eastern Illinois.

"High octane offenses back to back," Samuel said of the challenge facing Southeast's defense. "Murray is very explosive on offense, probably the most explosive team we'll face on offense all year.

"They probably throw the deep ball more [than Eastern Illinois] because of his [Brockman's] arm."

While the Racers' offense has thrived, their defense has struggled. MSU is allowing 42 points and 510.6 yards per game, both worst in the conference and among the worst nationally. The Racers are coming off 55-24 loss at Eastern Kentucky as they allowed 666 yards.

Samuel said time of possession will again be important as the Redhawks try to keep MSU's offense on the sidelines.

Southeast held the ball for 37 minutes, 42 seconds at Eastern Illinois and threatened to upset the Panthers before they scored the final 23 points to rally from a 20-16 deficit late in the third quarter.

"They'll try to get 100 plays," Samuel said. "The best thing we can do is keep their offense off the field."

The loss at Eastern Illinois marked Southeast's fourth conference defeat in which the Redhawks were within one score at some point in the fourth quarter. Their only blowout league setback was a 31-7 loss to Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 3.

"The kids keep battling. You always want that," Samuel said. "It's just frustrating we haven't been able to close the deal."

Hatcher knows the feeling even more. Prior to the Eastern Kentucky blowout, the Racers' three OVC losses were by a combined 11 points -- including by one point in overtime at Eastern Illinois.

"You make a play here or a play there, you look up and you could be 8-3," Hatcher said.

Southeast trails the all-time series against MSU 37-8-1, including 20-3-1 in Murray, Ky. But the Redhawks won at MSU in both 2006 and 2010.

Last season the Racers held on for a 35-34 victory in Cape Girardeau after Southeast had a PAT blocked with just over a minute left.

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