SEMO Football Notes: Receiver Kristian Wilkerson puts on tremendous performance - again
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian
Prior to halftime of its Ohio Valley Conference football game against Eastern Kentucky Saturday at Houck Stadium, the Southeast Missouri State offense had committed five turnovers and punted twice.
It didn’t have much going its way.
However, when an offense has wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson as a weapon, regardless of the degree of poor play, it is always just one play away from swinging the momentum.
“He has a weird knack for adjusting to the ball while creating space at the same time,” Redhawk quarterback Daniel Santacaterina said of his favorite target.
There was nothing “weird” about Wilkerson’s play Saturday, as he repeatedly displayed how futile the Colonel defensive scheme was in trying to cover him.
The Colonel defense had jumped off-side on a third-and-one midway through the first quarter and Santacaterina saw Wilkerson streaking down the left sideline on the free play and he lofted a perfect throw for Wilkerson to run under and ultimately take 68 yards for a touchdown.
“He’s not the tallest, but he’s tall,” Santacaterina continued. “He’s not the fastest, but he’s fast. That is what separates him.”
Wilkerson is already the most productive receiver in Redhawk history and he added to his lore with a phenomenal performance Saturday.
The fifth-year senior caught 10 passes for 254 yards, which was the second-most in a game in program history (yes, he holds that record, as well).
He also scored a couple of times.
“What a performance,” sixth-year Redhawk coach Tom Matukewicz said. “I didn’t realize he had that many yards. Obviously, I knew it was a great game, but I didn’t know it was in the 250s.”
The two things that Eastern Kentucky has based its success on is running the ball and taking time off the clock in the second half once it gets a lead from… running the ball.
Southeast didn’t allow either to occur in the second half.
The Colonels led the Ohio Valley Conference in rushing at over 210 yards per game and at halftime Saturday it appeared that would happen again.
After gaining over 100 yards in the first half and scoring 24 points, the Redhawk defense held Eastern Kentucky to 40 yards on the ground in the second half (141 for the game) and just seven points following intermission.
“Hats off to them, because they had some scheme early in the first half that they had drawn up,” Matukewicz said. “We didn’t have an answer for it, but we got it solved.”
The ability to contain the Colonel run game was never more evident than in the final 1:38 when the visitors had two opportunities to gain three yards and a first down and couldn’t do so.
“They do a nice job,” Matukewicz said of the Eastern Kentucky run game. “They know how to do it and they have good players. But defensively, it was just another really good performance.”
Colonel coach Mark Elder said earlier this week he felt time of possession in the second half was a focal point of his. However, the Redhawks owned that statistic Saturday.
Eastern Kentucky held possession for almost seven more minutes in the opening half, but Southeast held the advantage by almost two minutes in the final half, which prevented the Colonels from securing the lead it had built early.
Through the first eight games of this season, Santacaterina had completed just 50 percent of his passes (97 of 194). However, that script has flipped in the past two weeks.
Santacaterina connected on 25 of 37 passes in a win at Tennessee State last week and hit on 17 of 27 Saturday, which is a rate of 65.6 percent over the past two games.
“I thought he did a great job,” Matukewicz said of his quarterback. “I thought we had a pocket. Right away we knew they were going to single-cover Kristian and we knew we had to go to him.”
Santacaterina did throw a pair of interceptions, but he also had three touchdown passes.
“I’m getting into a rhythm,” Santacaterina said. “Stats are stats even when they are bad or they’re good. There is always something to work on and we’re winning. So, that is really all that matters.”