Billings seeks a Houck record

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Southeast Missouri State University football coach Tim Billings was elated with the crowd for the Indians' first home game of the 2001 season.

Saturday night's contest against Southern Illinois drew 9,822 fans, which is the sixth-largest crowd to ever see a Southeast game at Houck Stadium. And most of those fans went away happy as the Indians defeated the Salukis 24-5.

"We had a great crowd," said Billings. "The enthusiasm was super. The fans really got into it and gave us a lot of momentum to help us win the game."

But Billings wants more. Speaking at his weekly media conference Monday morning, he said he's pushing for Southeast fans to come out in even greater force -- specifically record force -- this Saturday as the 1-1 Indians take on the 1-1 Southwest Missouri State Bears in a 6 p.m. kickoff at Houck.

"Our goal this week is to try and set a new attendance record," Billings said. "We're looking for somewhere between 12 and 15 thousand."

The largest crowd to see a game at Houck Stadium was 11,015 for the 1999 Family Weekend contest against Eastern Kentucky. The next two biggest crowds in Southeast history came during Billings' first season with the program last year as 10,222 turned out for Family Weekend against Western Kentucky and 10,028 showed up for Homecoming against Murray State.

With no such special occasions surrounding this week's contest, Billings is simply hoping that an in-state matchup and the excitement the Indians have generated during their first two games will be enough to turn the trick.

"This will be a great opportunity for our university and this area, if we could set a new attendance record," he said. "It would really help our football program."

Offense, defense mesh

Thanks in large part to Saturday's record-setting performance, Southeast is fifth nationally and first in the Ohio Valley Conference in passing offense with 320 yards per game.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jeromy McDowell passed for 391 yards against SIU to set a school record, and the Indians' total figure of 418 yards through the air also established a new school mark.

McDowell, who has passed for 613 yards in two games, leads the OVC and is 11th nationally in total offense.

Junior-college transfers Adrian Sanders and Willie Ponder are dominating OVC receiving statistics. They are tied for first and rank 11th nationally in receptions per game with 6.5 and rank one-two in the league in receiving yards per game, Sanders with 130.5 and Ponder with 120.5. Sanders is ninth in the nation in receiving yards while Ponder is 12th.

Defensively, the Indians are second in the OVC and 18th nationally in scoring defense, having allowed just 21 points. That's a far cry from the first two games of last year, when Southeast had already been torched for 96 points.

"Last year by this time we probably had 15 touchdowns scored against us," said Billings with a laugh, overestimating the total by just two touchdowns. "Our defense is doing a lot better."

Southeast leads the OVC and is 13th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The Indians also top the OVC with four interceptions, led by true freshman cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who is tied for the league lead and is seventh nationally with two interceptions.

Kicking game solid

Entering the season, one of the Indians' big question marks was their overall kicking game after All-American Jason Witczak -- who handled both the kicking and punting -- completed his eligibility.

But so far, so good. True freshman Derek Kutz from St. Vincent High School is 3-for-4 on field goals to rank second in the OVC and ninth nationally in field goals made per game. He is also 3-for-3 on extra points.

Punter Kyle East, after somewhat of a shaky first game, rebounded to average 46.2 yards on five attempts against SIU. He leads the OVC with a 42.2-yard average.

And Billings has also been pleased with true freshman Brian Emmendorfer of Cape Central, who kicks off.

"Derek and Brian have both been doing very well and all of a sudden Kyle is really coming around and getting some confidence," Billings said.

This and that

After coaches reviewed the film from the SIU contest, safety Prince Anderson was credited with a game-high 12 tackles. He leads the team with 30.

Ricky Farmer, Leotis Belcher and true freshman Adam Jones all had 10 tackles, followed by redshirt freshman Cal Jillson with nine, Corey Mathis with eight and James Jennette with seven. Jennette also had three tackles for loss.

Two local products also were solid as Tatum Kitchen (Cape Central) had five tackles and true freshman Caleb Daniel (Jackson) was credited with four in his first collegiate action.

The Jones family will no doubt be torn on who to root for this Saturday. Southwest Missouri standout senior linebacker P.J. Jones is the brother of Southeast's Adam Jones. Both played at North County High School, which also produced McDowell.

Two Cape Central products are on the Southwest Missouri roster, sophomore linebacker DeMarco Williams and sophomore receiver Chris Allen. Williams is on the second unit while Allen is not listed on the depth chart.

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