This Saturday night we face the challenge of playing a nationally ranked football team at Houck Stadium. Eastern Kentucky is 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Colonels are ranked 23rd in one national poll and 25th in another.
There is no doubt that the Colonels are as good as any team in the OVC and probably should be ranked higher. They are coached by legendary coach Roy Kidd, who has over 300 career wins and ranks as the third winningest active coach in college football, trailing only Joe Paterno of Penn State and Bobby Bowden of Florida State.
Our team is excited about playing a team like Eastern Kentucky in front of our great fans at Houck Stadium. Eastern Kentucky has the type of program we would like to have at Southeast. They have done the things we want to do.
Eastern Kentucky has good players who work hard and are well coached. They play and practice in first-class facilities. They have a new building that houses football offices, dressing rooms and weight rooms. The building, located adjacent to Roy Kidd Stadium, is a 40,000-square-foot, $4.75 million state-of-the-art facility. The stadium seats 20,000 fans and a new scoreboard offers instant replay on a big screen.
When you see all that they have, it is not hard to understand why they are a nationally ranked team year in and year out. The Eastern Kentucky program is a blueprint we want to follow at Southeast.
As we prepare to play one of the top teams in I-AA football, it is easy to look back and get frustrated about this season. We've been close to turning the corner, but our young team just hasn't turned the corner yet. As frustrated as I am, I am reminded that at this time last year, I was miserable. This year I'm just frustrated.
There have been a lot of positive improvements in our football team. We have a group of young players that has played hard and learned a lot. As I mentioned last week, we are playing players who, in a program like Eastern Kentucky, would have been redshirted. In our young program, the new players have had to play and although they have been inconsistent at times and have made mistakes, they have gained valuable game experience that will pay dividends next season.
The negatives we have this season will be positives for next year's team. I have never questioned the character of this team. They have battled hard and gained OVC experience that will be invaluable in the future.
One of the big things for our team this week is to try to regain the confidence we had early in the season. In a season of near misses, our confidence has slipped. We need to regain that confidence in order to play with a great team like Eastern Kentucky.
Our crowds have been great this season and I hope everyone will come out again Saturday night to see us challenge one of the top I-AA teams in the nation. We have never beaten Eastern Kentucky, but the time is coming and it might just be Saturday night. I hope I'll see you there.
Tim Billings is the head football coach at Southeast Missouri State University