Indians say they are the real deal

Monday, October 7, 2002

As exhilarating as their upset of Middle Tennessee two weeks ago was, Southeast Missouri State University's Indians knew that win wouldn't mean nearly as much if they didn't follow it up with another triumph.

That's one of the reasons the Indians were all smiles at Houck Stadium Saturday night following their dominating 49-25 victory over Tennessee State in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both teams.

The Indians, equaling their win total from all of last season, improved to 4-2. The reeling Tigers fell to 1-5 as they suffered their fourth straight loss.

"Beating Middle Tennessee was great, but we knew people would think it was a fluke if we didn't come back and beat Tennessee State," junior defensive end Ryan Roth said. "I think we're for real and we want to keep proving it."

Southeast coach Tim Billings thought the Indians were for real after their 24-14 victory at Division I-A Middle Tennessee on Sept. 28. But he, like his players, knew they needed to back up that performance with another strong one.

"We needed to back it up and we did that," Billings said. "I was anxious to see how we'd respond after the big win over Middle Tennessee and I thought we responded really well."

Southeast's defense, considered somewhat suspect during the first few games of the season, turned in a strong performance for the second straight week, particularly in the first half as the Indians held the Tigers to just 72 yards of offense in building a 28-0 halftime lead.

"The defense really played great in the first half," Billings said. "We're getting everybody healthy on defense again and that makes a difference."

NesSmith, Tomco honored

Sophomore wide receiver Chris NesSmith won the OVC special teams player of the week award Sunday and junior quarterback Jack Tomco earned newcomer of the week accolades.

NesSmith, who redshirted last season and played in only one game as a freshman two years ago, has made a big splash in his first season as a starter. Saturday, he caught five passes, including one for a touchdown, and returned a punt 44 yards for another TD.

"After basically not playing for two years, it feels great to be contributing," NesSmith said.

Tomco, a junior-college transfer, has also made a major impression in his first season with the Indians as he has passed for more than 1,300 yards and is on pace to break the school single-season record of 2,580 yards, set by Jason Liley in 1990.

Against Tennessee State, Tomco completed 25 of 36 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns, which tied a school record.

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