'New mission' for SEMO FB begins today following road loss

Southeast Missouri State senior linebacker Christian Fuhrman celebrates making a tackle earlier this season against Eastern Illinois at Houck Field.
Tony Capobioanco ~

Since his football players returned to Cape Girardeau from their 2022 Christmas Break in January, veteran Southeast Missouri State coach Tom Matukewicz has been preaching on the “mission” of this team winning a Big South/OVC Football Association championship and advancing to the 2023 FCS Playoffs.

That changed on Saturday, as SEMO fell at No. 16-ranked UT Martin 41-14 and lost any possibility of achieving either goal.

“(UT Martin) won both sides of the line of scrimmage,” Matukewicz said following the loss, “and that made everything else really hard.”

The Skyhawks (8-2, 5-1 Big South/OVC) completely shut down the Redhawks offense, aside from one long touchdown throw (75 yards) from freshman quarterback Greg Menne to senior wide receiver Ryan Flournoy in the third quarter.

SEMO starting quarterback Patrick Heitert completed just 13 of 24 passes for 66 yards and one interception before being replaced in the second half by Menne.

“I hated that,” Matukewicz said of benching Heitert. “That was one of the worst parts, was having to pull Pat. But we felt like we needed a spark.”

UT Martin, which has now won at least a share of the conference title for three consecutive seasons, held Redhawk running back Geno Hess to negative two yards rushing on eight carries. As a team, SEMO gained just eight first downs and 162 yards of total offense, 75 of which came on one play.

“They were able to control the line of scrimmage,” Matukewicz reiterated, ‘and play press-man (on the Redhawk receivers) out there. We weren’t able to have an answer for that.

“It made for a long day.”

SEMO got on the scoreboard first on a 28-yard interception return for a score by defensive back Joedrick Lewis less than two minutes into the game. However, the Skyhawks dominated in every way after that.

To compound matters for SEMO, All-American linebacker Bryce Norman was ejected in the first half after making contact with an official following a call.

“It was pretty embarrassing,” Matukewicz said of the situation, “and was tough to watch. Bryce is a great kid, and nobody hurts worse than him. But one of our keys to victory is to play smart. Obviously, he got emotionally hijacked and couldn’t handle his emotions.

“He let himself down and his teammates down.”

UT Martin led 27-7 before Menne hit Flournoy (nine receptions, 112 yards) for the long score, but it rebounded with two fourth-quarter scores to seal the easy win.

Norman and linebacker Jacob Morrissey each had eight tackles while linebacker Christian Fuhrman led SEMO with nine defensive stops.

The Redhawks (4-6, 3-2) will close the season with a road game at Bryant (5-5, 3-2) on Saturday in Smithfield, Rhode Island at noon (Central time).

“We didn’t accomplish our mission,” Matukewicz said. “That probably says a lot more about me than it does this team. We’ll have a new mission on Monday, which is to finish the season out, don’t turn on each other, have great character, and finish this out.”

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