SE eagerly anticipates a clean game against MSU

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Southeast Missouri State University football coach Tim Billings is glad of one thing.

There is no chance of a muddy field for the Indians' next game.

The Indians, who suffered a 12-0 loss at Eastern Illinois Saturday at the Panthers' water-logged O'Brien Stadium, face homecoming foe Murray State on Saturday on the artificial FieldTurf surface of Houck Stadium.

"There might be a little rubber, but no mud," said a laughing Billings during his weekly media conference Monday morning. "But I think it's really supposed to be a nice day."

That certainly wasn't the case in Charleston, Ill., as the Indians and Panthers played the entire game in a torrential downpour that turned O'Brien Stadium into a mud bowl.

"Saturday was one of the tougher situations I've ever been associated with, especially on a grass field," Billings said.

Not that Billings believes Southeast would have definitely beaten nationally ranked Eastern Illinois, but he would have liked the chance for the Indians' wide-open offense to operate on a dry track.

"We really felt like we had a great game plan for Eastern Illinois, if it hadn't rained, if it hadn't been a monsoon," he said. "I felt like we could have played with them. The rain and wind really hurt our offense."

Now the Indians, 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference, must gear up for what no doubt will be something of a desperate Murray State squad. The Racers, 2-3 overall, are 0-2 in the OVC.

"I think it's a big game for both teams, a big key for the rest of the season," said Billings. "Our opportunity to win the conference championship is not there now so we have to look at other things in these last four games. I really feel we have a legitimate chance these last four games.

"Our goal is to have a winning record. We have to win three of the last four to do that. And we'd like to run the table."

Southeast has lost eight straight games against Murray State.

Homecoming reunions

Two of Southeast's former football teams -- the 1950 and 1958 squads -- will hold reunions centered around the homecoming festivities, with many of the members scheduled to attend.

The 1950 team was quarterbacked by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer general manager Phil Krueger, who will serve as grand marshall for the homecoming parade. That squad also included All-American John Schneider and former Southeast athletic director Marvin Rosengeraten.

The 1958 Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship team featured Ken Iman, who spent 14 seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams. That Indian squad also included former Southeast president Bill Stacy.

The 1950 team will be introduced prior to Saturday's game while the 1958 squad will be introduced at halftime.

OVC leaders

Several Indians continue to lead the OVC in various statistical categories.

Tailback Curtis Cooper is first in all-purpose running with 210.6 yards per game and he also ranks third nationally in that department. The OVC's second-leading rusher with 897 yards, Cooper should have a shot at breaking Kelvin Anderson's single-season school rushing record of 1,371 yards.

Wide receiver Willie Ponder tops the league in every receiving category. Despite catching only six passes in the past two games, Ponder has 42 receptions for 725 yards.

Safety Prince Anderson is first in tackles with 91 (13 per game) and he ranks fifth nationally.

Defensive tackle James Jennette is tied for the lead in tackles for loss with 11.

Injury update

Three starters who all missed the Eastern Illinois game are expected to be ready for Murray State.

Adrian Sanders, the Indians' second-leading receiver, sat out with a bruised knee. Also out were safety Leotis Belcher (sprained ankle) and defensive end John Paul Usrey (concussion).

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