First two games brought Indians together

Thursday, September 12, 2002

It was great to get a win over Southern Illinois Saturday night and it was great to see all the fans wearing red in the stands. We appreciate your support.

As I sit back and reflect on the game, I can see that we are coming together as a team. Our offense did a good job in the first half with Jack Tomco completing his first nine passes, and we built a 14-0 lead. The defense played like I knew it could.

Even though we struggled some in the second half offensively and SIU tied the game 14, we came back with a great drive in the final minutes to win 21-14 on Tomco's 38-yard pass to Willie Ponder with 49 seconds left. It was a great play by both players.

Jeromy McDowell, who learned earlier in the week that he was finished for the season because of a knee injury, was on the sidelines on crutches talking to and helping Tomco. That is the type of team spirit we need.

McDowell had successful knee surgery Monday and will be ready to go next season, but he wants to win this season. He and his family are flying to Michigan so he can be on the sidelines to help in any way he can at Saturday night's game with Eastern Michigan.

As I prepare this column, my mind and heart go back to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, that really put everything in perspective. It was a very traumatic event, but it really pulled our country together. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and heroes.

Our football team has had a lot of adversity over the past two seasons, including the loss of McDowell this year, but we are pulling together as a team and we've found a way to win our first two games. Adversity can either pull a group together or divide and cause problems. Just like our country pulled together, our team is pulling together.

We face our toughest test of the year so far Saturday night at Eastern Michigan. The Eagles are a Division I-A team that has lost lopsided games to Michigan State and Toledo, a pair of top 30 teams. Despite the losses to two of the better teams in the country, I have been very impressed with the Eagles in the game tapes I have watched.

Eastern Michigan is very physical and they have a couple of talented running backs who are big, strong and fast. We will have to be ready for a very physical football team that has very good depth, particularly in the lines. They have more money and more scholarship players, but I know our team is really looking forward to the challenge.

The Eagles came from behind to beat us 16-12 last season and I know our players are itching for the rematch. Eastern Michigan is the favorite, but we are going up there to win, not just pick up a check.

I know that our team will play hard and, win or lose, you will be proud of their effort. We have found a way to win and that is a credit to the character of our football team. We seem to be like the old Cardiac Cardinals. I know I may need to see a cardiologist if we keep going to the wire for our wins.

We will know a lot more about where we are as a team after this week's game. It is a long bus ride to Ypsilanti, Mich., but a win would make the trip home seem a lot shorter.

Tim Billings is the football coach at Southeast Missouri State University

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