It’s unlikely Southeast Missouri State wins Saturday at No. 24 Missouri in the season opener for both teams. The game kicks off at 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers have never lost to a Football Championship Series team, including an 11-0 record against lower-division teams under coach Gary Pinkel.
Missouri’s average margin of victory in those games in more than 40 points, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason to tune in.
Southeast Missouri even has some legitimate NFL-caliber talent on its roster.
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We asked the Southeast Missourian’s beat writer and expert on all things Redhawks, Erin Unerstall, for a little more insight.
First down: Obviously, it’s year two of the Tom Matukewicz era and there were some positives last season, but is there a realistic feeling that Southeast Missouri can upset its big brother on Saturday?
Erin Unerstall: “I don’t think Matukewicz, his staff or the players are ever going to think that they can’t beat someone, but they understand that it’d take a monumental effort to do so against Missouri or any FBS opponent, so they’re pretty realistic about that.
“They have to play a game against an FBS school to help fund the athletic department, and Matukewicz knows that playing well against an in-state school, even if they lose, can have a positive effect on recruiting in Missouri.”
Second down: Why should Missouri fans be excited for a chance to watch Paul McRoberts play?
Unerstall: “Missouri fans should be excited to see the Redhawks’ receiver play because there’s a good possibility he ends up playing in the NFL, which doesn’t happen too often at Southeast.
“McRoberts makes catches that don’t seem possible and does it with ease. He can be surrounded by multiple defenders and most of the time he’ll snag it, because he’s so strong at reception point. Sometimes, that reception comes after the ball has bounced off several hands or a helmet, but he somehow ends up securing it.”
Third down: Who else on the Redhawks’ offense is capable of making plays?
Unerstall: “Senior running back DeMichael Jackson is another returning offensive weapon for Southeast. He rushed for 734 yards and five touchdowns last season, even though he missed four games with a broken hand.
“I’m also interested to see how starting quarterback Tay Bender performs. He transferred to Southeast from Iowa Western Community College, where he led the Reivers to an 11-1 record last year. Iowa Western’s only loss came in the juco national championship game. Bender enrolled early and went through spring drills with the second-team offense at Kansas State in 2012 but left before the start of the season.”
Fourth down: Who are the studs in SEMO’s 3-4 defense that are going to need monster games against MU?
Unerstall: “Roper Garrett is the top defensive player that returns for Southeast. The junior led the team with 96 tackles, three sacks and five forced fumbles last season, and he missed the final three games of the after breaking his leg.
“Junior safety Eriq Moore is another player that’ll play a big role in the Redhawks’ success on defense. Moore had 65 tackles and three interceptions last season.”
MISSOURI VS. FCS OPPONENTS UNDER PINKEL
Aug. 30, 2014
South Dakota State
Aug. 31, 2013
Sept. 1, 2012
Sept. 17, 2011
Sept. 11, 2010
Sept. 19, 2009
Sept. 6, 2008
Sept. 22, 2007
Sept. 2, 2006
Sept. 13, 2003
Sept. 8, 2001
* All games at Memorial Stadium