What 2 watch 4: SEMO seniors seek closing victory
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian
A lot is riding on today’s Southeast Missouri State vs. Murray State football game at Houck Stadium (1 p.m.).
If the No. 13-ranked Redhawks (8-3, 6-1 Ohio Valley Conference) beat the Racers (4-7, 2-5), then Southeast will be guaranteed at least a share of the OVC title, along with Austin Peay.
The Governors (8-3, 6-1) hold the tie-breaker with the Redhawks due to their 28-24 win earlier this season in Clarksville, Tenn., however, both teams would be designated as “co-champions.”
Austin Peay would also get the OVC automatic bid into the 2019 FCS Playoffs with a win today. However, Southeast should earn an at-large bid, as it did in 2018.
The postseason field will be announced on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. on ESPNU.
Here is “What 2 Watch 4” in today’s game:
Southeast will be recognizing 17 seniors today for possibly their final home game. The group is the most successful in program history and is filled with a massive amount of individual talent.
“They have just poured their whole heart and soul into this program,” sixth-year Redhawk coach Tom Matukewicz said.
Those players, as well as the coaches and fans, will need to put aside their emotions and focus on the task at hand, which is winning a football game.
There will be a lot of time afterward for hugs and tears.
Run the ball
Southeast is very good at running the ball (third in the OVC), while Murray State isn’t very good at stopping the run (seventh in the league).
The Redhawks have three talented runners and Matukewicz needs to utilize each of them in abundance Saturday.
A strong run game will only boost a potent passing attack, particularly deep into the secondary to guys like Kristian Wilkerson and Aaron Alston.
Play them tight
The Racers want to throw the ball frequently and are good at doing so.
Sophomore quarterback Preston Rice completes nearly 60 percent of his throws and leads the league in attempts.
Part of that is Murray State has trailed a lot this season, but part of it is the Racers want to throw the ball.
Redhawk defenders Shabari Davis and DJ Freeman, among others will play a pivotal role today.
Southeast is second-best in the league at limiting opposing quarterbacks (50.6 percent completion) in league play.
The Redhawks have emerged as one of the nation’s best (15th) in picking off opposing quarterbacks, which could be beneficial against Rice.
The Murray State quarterback has thrown a league-high 10 interceptions in league play.
Junior Bydarrius Knighten and Freeman have combined for five in OVC play.
Murray State and Southeast both have the best punt games in the OVC with identical 37.8 net yards per punt.
Being forced into long drives due to good kicks will play a role in how effective the offenses can be.
(Not) Kicking it
Murray State has been abysmal in the kicking game this season, as it has missed 8 of 12 field goals and ranks last in the OVC in that regard.
By chance, if this is a close game, that obviously will be critical to watch.