Indians play party-crashers

Sunday, November 10, 2002

RICHMOND, Ky. -- So much for Roy Kidd's farewell bash.

Southeast Missouri State University's Indians, dominating on both sides of the football, stunned Eastern Kentucky 35-21 Saturday night in Kidd's final home game after 39 seasons as the Colonels' coach.

While Kidd's celebration was tarnished, the Indians had a reason of their own to party after they beat the Colonels for the first time in 13 tries.

"To beat them for the first time, with all the hype about Roy Kidd's last home game, is a great feeling," defensive end Ryan Roth said.

Southeast's win by itself was enough of an upset, but perhaps most surprising was the way the Indians physically dominated a team that usually does most of the pushing and shoving, particularly against Southeast. The Indians previously had not come closer than nine points to the Colonels and most of the losses were lopsided.

But there was nothing lucky about Saturday's triumph. Southeast took the fight to the Colonels all night and held a 463 to 194 edge in total yards.

"It's the best overall performance since I've been at Southeast, the offensive, defense and kicking game," third-year coach Tim Billings said. "I remember two years ago, our first time here, it was embarrassing. They threw us around like rag dolls. To physically dominate them like this was great.

"It's amazing how well we played. Credit goes to the coaches for a great game plan and all the players. You never expect to dominate a team like Eastern Kentucky like this."

The Indians improved to 7-4 overall and clinched their first winning season since 1994. They also finished the Ohio Valley Conference schedule with a 4-2 record, giving them a chance of finishing a best-ever second.

EKU, ranked 16th nationally, fell to 7-4 overall and 3-2 in the OVC.

Southeast's defense held EKU's rushing attack to 67 yards -- more than 170 yards below its average.

Indian defenders seemed to be around the ball on about every play, particularly in the second half when Southeast pitched a shutout in breaking away from a 21-21 tie at the intermission.

"We played a really good second half and a good game overall," linebacker Ricky Farmer said. "It means a whole lot to win this game, especially being Kidd's last game."

Quarterback Jack Tomco and wide receiver Willie Ponder set more school records. Tomco completed 20 of 31 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Already the holder of several single-season school marks in his first year with Southeast, Tomco eclipsed the passing yardage record and has 2,764.

"Winning feels great," Tomco said. "Eastern Kentucky has a good football team and you have to respect a guy like coach Kidd. We just played really well all the way around."

Ponder caught nine passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He has 14 touchdown receptions this season to break his own school record of 11, set last year. His 1,258 receiving yards this year also represent a school mark and his 25 career touchdown receptions are a Southeast record, accomplished in just two years.

When Ponder wasn't catching passes, he was getting pass interference calls as the Colonels decided to play the All-American man-to-man -- and paid the price.

"It was the first time all year I had one-on-one coverage the whole game," Ponder said. "I kept waiting for them to change, but they never did."

Five other Indians caught passes, including true freshman Jamel Oliver, who scored his first collegiate touchdown.

Southeast tacked on 180 yards rushing. Corey Kinsey closed in on 1,000 yards as he had 102 yards on 22 carries. Keiki Misipeka added 93 yards on 19 attempts and he scored a touchdown.

EKU used two first-quarter field goals to go up 6-0, but the Indians went ahead 14-6 early in the second quarter when Misipeka scored on a 4-yard run and Tomco hit Ponder from 39 yards out. Derek Kutz kicked both extra points and was 5-for-5 overall, including one from 35 yards after a penalty.

Then came a sequence that defines the resiliency Southeast has demonstrated all season.

After EKU got a touchdown and two-point conversion for a 14-14 tie, the Indians appeared to be driving for a go-ahead score late in the half -- but linebacker Justen Rivers intercepted a Tomco pass and raced 81 yards for a TD with just 1:11 remaining, putting the Colonels back up 21-14.

Tomco led the Indians back down the field and, with 25 seconds left, he hit Oliver from 17 yards out to make it 21-21 at the intermission.

"To come right back and score after my mistake was big," Tomco said.

Bigger than big, according to Billings.

"To come right back like that, it might have been the biggest key in the game," said the coach.

Southeast's defense dominated the second half and the Indians' offense put up two touchdowns. First, Tomco and Ponder hooked up from 40 yards out with 7:24 left in the third quarter, then Tomco hit Ponder from 13 yards out with 10:11 remaining in the final period.

When safety Mike Miller intercepted a pass with 2:03 remaining, Southeast's first-ever win over EKU was secured.

Kidd "had an unbelievable career and I really have a lot of respect for him," Billings said. "But I'm so happy for the players and coaches that we were finally able to beat them."

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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