SEMO QB Daniel Santacaterina posting the stats that count the most

Southeast Missouri State quarterback Daniel Santacaterina, right, hugs wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson during a game against Eastern Kentucky University earlier this season at Houck Stadium in Cape Girardeau.
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian

As an individual player, the numbers for the 2019 season for Southeast Missouri State fifth-year senior quarterback Daniel Santacaterina have fallen from a year ago.

His 28 touchdowns in 2018 have dropped to 18 this fall.

After completing 59 percent of his passes a year ago, that number sits at 56.8 this season.

He threw for 2,844 yards a season ago and has just 2,366 this season.

And he couldn’t care less, nor could his opposition.

“I know he hasn’t put the stats up that he did last year,” Murray State coach Mitch Stewart said before facing the Redhawks Saturday, “but he does a tremendous job in that offense.”

There are a couple of statistical categories that Santacaterina can improve upon from his first season in Cape Girardeau after starting his career at Northern Illinois.

He has led the Redhawks to nine wins and the program's first Ohio Valley Conference championship since 2010 following their 31-24 victory over the Racers Saturday, which can grow to 10 if/when Southeast plays in the upcoming FCS Playoffs.

“He obviously didn’t play great,” sixth-year coach Tom Matukewicz said following Saturday’s win. “He played good and we won. And ultimately, the stat of the quarterback is winning and losing.”

In that regard, no Southeast quarterback has ever been better.

The Redhawks have never had consecutive winning seasons at the FCS level but with Santacaterina guiding the offense they sure have.

Southeast couldn’t have dreamed of making the postseason, period, in most years, with “Santa” taking snaps it has become the norm.

“I honestly believed it could be this good,” Santacaterina said of Southeast when he transferred to the program nearly 24 months ago. “On film, I saw great players. I saw a great defense.

“I’ve always believed.”

The fans – and the media – didn’t always believe in Santacaterina but his coach never stopped believing in his quarterback.

Even when he benched him.

Matukewicz sat Santacaterina for the entire second half in a 17-10 win against UT Martin earlier this season, a game in which the quarterback had struggled. And it wasn’t the first time he had played poorly this season.

However, Matukewicz made it clear minutes after the game that he was not making a quarterback change moving forward.

“If you’re not mentally tough,” Matukewicz said, “this game will chew you up and spit you out. And (Santacaterina) is as tough as it gets.

“He’s getting stitched up, he’s getting pulled, he’s getting yelled at, (and) articles are written. That is the hard part about being the quarterback and the head coach. It’s going to be your fault or give you credit.”

That “mental toughness” of the quarterback has shown over the past month.

In a four-game stretch, culminating with his being “pulled” against UT Martin, Santacaterina failed to complete more than 44.4 percent of his passes in three of them. Since that game, he has thrown 130 passes and completed 66.9 percent of them.

In Saturday’s win, he set a new Redhawk record for career touchdown passes (46) despite only playing at Southeast for two seasons.

“I’m just so thankful that he gets to leave here in the record book,” Matukewicz said. “Because I want everybody else to know what I know.”

Santacaterina is also “thankful” to be in the Southeast record book because despite spending three years at Northern Illinois and just two at Southeast, his heart belongs here.

“I sure as Hell won’t say Northern Illinois,” Santacaterina laughed when asked how he’ll answer the future question ‘Where did you play?’

“Redhawks. SEMO. They’ll know.”

If they study the record books they will.

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