SEMO Football Notes: Takeaways have become a way of life for Redhawks
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian
The Southeast Missouri State football program isn’t currently the absolute best team in the FCS in turnover margin, as they were a year ago, but it’s close.
The Redhawks are ranked atop the Ohio Valley Conference in the statistical category and are the ninth-best team in the country.
Southeast (6-3, 4-1 OVC) will host Eastern Kentucky (5-4, 3-2) Saturday at Houck Stadium at 1 p.m. and Colonels coach Mark Elder said the fact the Redhawks are excellent again at this skill isn’t happenstance.
“I absolutely don’t think that it is luck of the draw,” Elder said. “Boy, ‘How about that? We just happen to get a bunch of turnovers again. I never thought that would happen.’”
Southeast generated four turnovers in four non-conference games but has ratcheted that skill up in OVC play.
In the past five games, the Redhawks have recovered seven fumbles and picked off seven interceptions.
“It is a point of emphasis,” Elder said of the Southeast coaches. “I don’t think that anyone coaching football doesn’t realize that getting the ball back and possessing the ball, that margin of turnovers, besides scoring more points than your opponent, is the most important statistic that you’ve got up there.”
Elder went on to explain in the 20 OVC games this season that has had a difference in turnover margin, the team with the more positive number has won 18 of those.
“I see SEMO ripping at the football a lot,” Elder said. “I see SEMO putting the quarterback in duress and forcing errant throws.
“Then they have guys that play tight coverage that play the ball in the air very, very well. Those things lead to a lot of turnovers, so we have to do a great job of possessing it.”
One of those turnover generators has been Redhawk senior linebacker Zach Hall, who has 2 ½ quarterback sacks, six quarterback hurries and forced three fumbles.
Hall is a Louisville, Ky. native, as are several of his teammates, which interestingly enough is in Eastern Kentucky’s backyard.
“It’s good football,” sixth-year Southeast coach Tom Matukewicz said of Louisville high schools. “But a lot of those guys didn’t have a lot of options. It’s not like we beat Eastern Kentucky for those guys.”
Louisville and Richmond, Ky. (home to Eastern) are separated by 101 miles, but Matukewicz was able to go to the city and sign linebacker Bryant Pirtle (5 ½ tackles for a loss this season, five quarterback sacks, and two quarterback hurries), Omardrick Douglas (21 tackles, a game-winning interception), Hall, Zack Smith (17 receptions, 19 returns), Rasean McCauley (14 tackles), among others.
“We thought they could play,” Matukewicz said. “They ended up kind of falling in love with Cape Girardeau, which is a river town, a very similar feel for them. I just think that it was a good fit.”
More and more marks
Southeast wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson continued his onslaught of the Redhawk record book in Saturday’s win at Tennessee State.
The fifth-year senior caught his 30th career touchdown pass, which set a new program mark, as well as nine balls, which brought his career total to 189, also a new record.
“I’m thankful for (having) him,” Matukewicz said. “I’m thankful for the kind of teammate that he is.”
Wilkerson ranks third in the OVC in receiving yards per game (104.4) and second in touchdowns (five).
“I’m thankful for the legacy that he and the other seniors have left on this football team,” Matukewicz said.