Southeast record fails to speak for itself

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Statistically, Southeast Missouri State University's football Indians improved tremendously during Tim Billings' second season as their head coach.

About the only major improvement missing came in the area of wins and losses as the 2001 Indians went 4-7 as opposed to 3-8 last year. But Billings is planning on all that changing next season.

"I sure hope so," said Billings during his final weekly media conference of the season Monday. "This was a frustrating year. At some point in time we have to turn the corner. The bottom line is wins and losses. They don't say you had this many yards, they look at wins and losses.

The numbers -- except for that all-important record -- certainly indicate that the Indians made up plenty of ground on the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference this year, even though they will almost certainly finish next-to-last for the second straight season. Southeast wound up 1-5 in the league.

Last year, the Indians were obviously short on talent compared to most of the squads on their schedule. They wound up being outscored 403-224 and were outgained in total yards by an average of 444 to 296 per game.

This season, after Billings and his staff obviously brought in quite a bit more talent, the Indians were outscored just 281-279 and they outgained the opposition in total yards by an average of 405 to 393 per game.

"No question, we made a great jump in the OVC, but the record didn't show it as much," Billings said. "We got stronger but so did the rest of the OVC. We've tightened the gap in the OVC. Of course, we're not there yet."

The main thing that prevented the Indians from taking a significant step forward record-wise this year were three close losses.

Southeast went 3-3 in its first six games but could just as well have been 6-0. The Indians had late leads against both Eastern Michigan and Southwest Missouri before falling 16-12 and 31-28, respectively, and they failed to score on three plays from the 1-yard line in the final seconds of a 20-14 loss to Tennessee State.

Following that Tennessee State game on Sept. 29, the Indians struggled to beat lowly Tennessee-Martin and then were not nearly as competitive in losing four straight before they finished Saturday night with a 38-6 romp past Division II Quincy.

"It was an exciting year, one of those real close years," said Billings. "The close losses took their toll. I think the Tennessee State game really hurt, not being able to score from the 1-yard line."

Young squad

What has Billings already excited for next year is the fact his team was so young and inexperienced this season. Only three seniors started most of the year and a host of freshmen and sophomores who were regulars will have that much more strength and maturity next year.

Billings said his recruiting focus for next season will be to add depth across the board and to hopefully come up with some impact players to go along with the players the Indians have returning.

"We have to add everywhere and find the best players we can to replace our seniors," he said. "Hopefully we can find a couple of impact kids offensively and defensively."

From a statistical standpoint, the senior most difficult to replace will be tailback Curtis Cooper, who rushed for 1,198 yards this year -- the second-best single-season total in school history. Cooper, also a dangerous return man, is sixth nationally in all-purpose running.

"Curtis had a great year, and in a passing offense, but I think we'll be all right (at running back)," said Billings.

Among the returning tailbacks, speedy Iven Brown, who has battled injuries during much of his Southeast career, came on strong at the end of the year and touted freshman Corey Kinsey showed promise. Billings said the Indians will also likely add a new back or two for next year.

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