Indians' OT opener was an ominous start

Sunday, September 1, 2002

It's generally not wise to try and read too much into any one game, particularly a season-opening contest.

But I came away from Southeast Missouri State University's 42-41 double-overtime football victory over Arkansas-Monticello Thursday thinking one primary thing:

I sure hope the Boll Weevils really are a very good Division II team -- only time will tell about that -- as it looked like they were at Houck Stadium on Thursday. If not, then that certainly isn't a good sign for the Indians because UAM was believed to be one of the few soft touches on a rugged Southeast schedule.

However, before everybody starts bashing the Indians already, let's give some credit where credit is due. I know it was only one game, but I can't imagine Southeast will run into very many quarterbacks better than UAM's Fred Leonard II, who confounded defenders all over the field as he constantly scrambled away from the rush to buy time and wound up throwing for an incredible 484 yards.

And the Boll Weevils had several other big-time athletes, particularly a few wide receivers who appeared to possess blazing speed.

Still, it's hard to fathom that a supposedly much improved Southeast defense could allow a staggering 622 yards of offense to a Division II team coming off a losing season. And the Indians' offense wasn't much better than their defense, sputtering more often than not while committing five turnovers and being flagged for numerous penalties.

On the plus side, the Indians did show considerable poise when it counted the most -- particularly on their touchdown drive late in regulation that sent the game into overtime. That's bound to count for something if they're faced with a similar situation later in the year.

All in all, it was not the kind of opening performance the Indians were looking for as they head into Saturday's rivalry game at Southern Illinois.

But the bottom line is that Southeast came up with a victory. And if the Indians do end up having a solid season, then very few people are going to look back on the first game and remember that they barely won.

If the Indians wind up having another bummer of a campaign, however, then plenty of people will probably look back and remember that opening contest as being a very bad sign.

Only time will tell how Thursday's wild affair is ultimately going to be labeled.

* I'm not saying Southeast will or won't beat SIU -- although it does appear to be a winnable game for the Indians, and probably one they need to win if they want to have a good chance at a strong season -- but don't read too much into the rebuilding Salukis' 78-0 destruction of Kentucky Wesleyan in their season opener.

While Arkansas-Monticello had quality athletes at most positions, Kentucky Wesleyan is one of the nation's worst Division II teams, a plodding outfit that went 1-9 last year and doesn't even award scholarships.

* What figures to be another exciting season of area high school football kicks off Friday night.

Two of the more interesting story lines center around how Jackson will adjust to life after Mario Whitney and how far what appears to be a talented Central team can advance in the state playoffs.

If Friday's jamboree in Perryville is any indication, Jackson will be just fine as the Indians were evidently mighty impressive in dominating Central during the time those squads went head-to-head.

We'll begin to find out more when the regular season begins.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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