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Indians' upset vanishes
YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Southeast Missouri freshman quarterback Jeromy McDowell did his best work out of the shotgun. So did Eastern Michigan's QB Troy Edwards, which left the Indians with a painful loss in their season opener Saturday.
Edwards' long-snap heroics came late as EMU, a Div. I-A school, scored in the last two minutes to beat Southeast 16-12 in non-conference football action. Southeast, a Div. I-AA school, fell to 0-1 on the season.
Freshman Derek Kutz of Perryville, Mo., had put Southeast ahead 12-9 with a 23-yard field goal with 9:18 left.
Kutz had two field goals while a pass to junior wide receiver Adrian Sanders -- whose uncle Barry was reportedly in attendance -- accounted for the Indians' lone touchdown.
Southeast appeared to be in position for the upset with EMU facing a fourth-and-10 at the SEMO 41 with under three minutes remaining, but Edwards -- out of the shotgun -- connected with wide receiver Kevin Walter for a 10-yard strike to put EMU on SEMO's 31.
Edwards then found receiver Erik Ibom for a 25-yard pass play to set up the winning TD.
With 1:47 left, EMU tailback Chris Robinson raced in from the 5 to crush the Indians' chance for a road win.
"Their quarterback made a few plays and we had an opportunity twice to intercept it," Southeast coach Tim Billings said. "We had two balls in our hands to stop the drive.
"On the fourth down, they just made it by a few inches. We had opportunities. We just didn't take advantage of them."
SEMO's comeback attempt was squashed after the ensuing squib kick bounced off Charles McEllroy and was recovered by EMU with 1:46 left. Billings warned his special team about a possible squib kick.
"He tried to move and it hit him," Billings said. "I guess I shouldn't have said anything."
The second-year head coach had plenty to say about his quarterback. McDowell completed 17 of 35 passes for 222 yards despite being sacked five times. He threw one interception.
"I think he played great," Billings said of McDowell's first collegiate start. "He was under great pressure."
McDowell was comfortable working out of the shotgun.
On the Indians' touchdown, which came with 1:14 left in the third quarter, McDowell turned a third-and-17 situation into a 33-yard scoring toss. After taking the long snap McDowell unleashed the pin-point aerial to Sanders in the end zone.
Sanders caught seven passes for 70 yards; Ponder collected 120 yards with six reception.
McDowell pulled off the TD strike to Sanders with EMU rushers descending on him from both sides.
A high snap caused SEMO to miss the point-after attempt but the Indians had their first lead at 9-6.
Southeast freshman Nate Johnson forced EMU's Rich Schutt to fumble the ensuing kickoff, which freshman Mike Miller recovered. A few minutes later, Eagles cornerback Erick Middleton picked off a McDowell pass.
One of three EMU field goals - a 28-yard kick by Toller Starnes - tied the game 9-9 early in the fourth quarter.
The teams exchanged field goals in the first quarter.
Kutz connected on a 27-yard FG attempt with 7:45 left. A McDowell to Willie Ponder 37-yard pass set up the scoring play.
EMU replied with a 33-yard field goal by Starnes with 41 seconds left in the opening quarter. EMU found itself on the Indian 36 after McDowell's pass attempt on fourth-and-four fell incomplete.
Billings attributed the peculiar play to a miscommunication. McDowell was supposed to punt.
"The miscommunication was really my fault," Billings said. "Jeromy did what he thought he was supposed to do."
In the second quarter, a 40-yard FG attempt by Starnes fell short. A few minutes and six yards further back, Eagles' back-up kicker Eric Klaban connected from 46 yards.
Later in the half, Kutz tried to tie the score but his 47-yard attempt fell short. EMU led 6-3 at the half.
EMU bottled up SEMO's running attack in the first half. Indian running back Curtis Cooper struggled to collect 39 yards on 13 carries. McDowell was sacked four times for minus-12 yards.
McDowell was 7-of-15 passing for 122 yards in the half
Cooper exploded in the second half, finishing with 136 yards on 26 carries. He also caught three passes for 28 yards.
The Indians return to action Saturday when Southern Illinois visits Houck Stadium.