If last week was a challenging one for Southeast Missouri State University's coaching staff, then this week should be a piece of cake.
No, not because the Indians (5-2, 2-0 Ohio Valley Conference) figure to have an easy time with Eastern Illinois (4-2, 2-0) in Saturday's 1 p.m. homecoming game between the current OVC co-leaders.
But Southeast head coach Tim Billings knows he and his assistants won't need any motivational ploys to get the Indians going this week. That certainly wasn't the case last week as Southeast prepared for lowly Tennessee-Martin, which the Indians defeated 50-35 Saturday.
"Last week was a tough week, getting the kids ready to play. Then you earn your money as a coach," Billings said during his weekly media conference Monday. "That won't be a problem this week. It will be easy coaching this week. This is a fun week. I'm excited and the kids are excited."
Saturday's contest against the seventh-ranked Panthers is being billed as one of the biggest in school history. Certainly, it's the biggest game since Southeast moved up from Division II to Division I-AA and joined the OVC in 1991. Never before this year had the Indians started OVC play with two straight wins.
"When I took this job, this is what we wanted to do, put our team in a situation to play for something like this," said Billings, in his third season at Southeast.
Billings said " it's been forever" since the school has had a game of this magnitude.
"This is not just our football team, it's the university's football team, the community's football team," he said. "We want everybody to feel like a part of it. Our fans can really make a difference in this game. I'll be really disappointed if we don't have 10,000 people there."
Billings figures the Indians can use any kind of edge as they try to upset the potent Panthers, who feature two-time OVC Offensive Player of the Year Tony Romo and a host of other explosive weapons.
"There's no question, they have the top talent in the conference," Billings said. "We'll be big underdogs, but if we play at the top of our game, hopefully we'll have a shot at the end."
Billings figures fans who attend the game will get their money's worth because it has all the makings of a shootout. Southeast and EIU have the OVC's top two offenses and they rank 10th and 11th nationally in that department with averages of 444 and 441 yards per game, respectively.
"It should be a great game for the fans to watch," Billings said.
Nearly full strength
The Indians should be at nearly full strength Saturday.
Defensive tackle James Jennette, who leads the OVC in sacks with six, missed the first half of the UT-Martin game with a shoulder injury, but he played in the second half and should be fine this week.
Cornerback Demar Winston (ankle) did not play against UT-Martin but is probable this week.
Kickoff specialist Brian Emmendorfer (groin) also did not play against UT-Martin after seeing limited action the previous week and his status is still up in the air. Derek Kutz, who already handles the place-kicking and punting duties, has done most of the kicking off the last two weeks.Noteworthy
***The Indians are unofficially back up to 26th in this week's Sports Network I-AA poll as they received the most votes among teams not in the top 25.
Southeast had moved up to 26th after upsetting Division I-A Middle Tennessee but inexplicably dropped to 28th last week despite routing Tennessee State.
In the ESPN/USA Today poll, the Indians are unofficially ranked 29th.
***Sophomore tailback Corey Kinsey has taken over the OVC rushing lead despite not playing against UT-Martin for disciplinary reasons.
Kinsey is averaging 97.67 yards per game. He has 586 total yards.