Entering his junior season, Demar Winston had not intercepted a pass during his Southeast Missouri State University football career -- let alone score a touchdown.
But Winston, after picking off a pass earlier this year, had a career game Saturday as the Indians took on Murray State for homecoming.
The junior cornerback came up with two interceptions and he returned one for a TD. Winston's only regret, however, is that those defensive heroics didn't help the Indians in the long run as they suffered a 45-35 defeat to the Racers.
"It's nice to do that, but I just wish we would have won the game," said Winston.
Winston, listed as 5-feet-8 and 165 pounds, was one of the smallest players on the field Saturday, but he turned in two of the biggest plays, even though they wound up going for naught.
Less than three minutes into the game, MSU quarterback Stewart Childress had the Racers moving inside the Southeast 40-yard line. On second-and-2, he fired a short swing pass to a running back.
But Winston read the play perfectly and a hard Childress pass went right into Winston's hands. It was not an easy interception, because the ball was fired with so much velocity, but Winston managed to hold on and it was nothing but smooth sailing as he returned the pick 57 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Southeast lead.
"I just came through him (the intended receiver) and jumped," said Winston. "I thought he was going to throw it over my head, but it kind of stuck to my hands and I just ran."
Winston's second interception came early in the fourth quarter. The Racers, leading 35-21, appeared to be driving for a clinching touchdown, but again Winston came up big as he picked off a Childress pass at his own 16. The Indians could not move the ball, however, and MSU tacked on an ensuing field goal that helped put the game away.
"I thought that would be a big momentum boost for us," said Winston of his second interception. "But it didn't work out that way."McDowell sets mark
Southeast redshirt freshman quarterback Jeromy McDowell set the school's all-time freshman passing record Saturday.
McDowell completed 26 of 43 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He now has 1,548 passing yards on the season to break the record of 1,273 yards set by Lance Brune in 1970.
McDowell, along with Bobby Brune, helped set a team single-game record for passing attempts (56) and completions (32). Brune, who saw late action, went 5-for-12 for 48 yards and he scored the Indians' final touchdown on a 1-yard run in the closing seconds. McDowell and Brune were each intercepted once.
Wide receiver Willie Ponder continued to close in on some records as he caught 10 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Ponder now has 52 receptions for 835 yards. The school's single-season marks are 72 receptions and 1,116 yards, both set by Farron Haley in 1989.
Tarik Simpson caught six passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Curtis Cooper, despite being held to 41 rushing yards on 14 carries, caught five passes for 66 yards and a TD. Cooper now has 938 rushing yards on the season.
For Murray State, Childress completed 20 of 30 passes for 239 yards and three TDs.
Racers' receiver Michael Slater, who also burned the Indians last year, caught seven passes for 135 yards and three TDs. Tailback Garner Byars gained 114 yards on 31 carries.
In total yards, the Indians actually held a 399-370 edge, but much of that came in the fourth quarter after the Racers built a substantial lead.
MSU rushed for 131 yards compared to just 50 for Southeast.
Fake punt fails
For the first time since coach Tim Billings took over the Southeast program, a fake punt by the Indians failed.
The Indians had pulled off one fake punt successfully last year in a crucial situation and they had accomplished three such plays this year.
But with Southeast trailing 35-21 early in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-eight play from its own 47, punter Kyle East fired a pass to Ray Goodson that went for a 2-yard loss. However, the play did not hurt the Indians as Winston came up with his second interception two plays later.