Football team starts season with shutout victory
Southeast Missouri State University football coach Tom Matukewicz said "You couldn't smack the smile off my face," after his football team lit up Missouri Baptist for 77 points without a response.
There was no secret that the game was more about testing Southeast's execution than stout competition after the Redhawks won 77-0 on Thursday night in Houck Stadium. Missouri Baptist, an NAIA school from Creve Coure, Missouri, played its first-ever football game.
Special teams were a key factor in the game and much-improved from last year. Southeast was never in bad field position, which started when senior wide receiver and kick returner Spencer Davis exploded for 61 yards on his only punt return of the night after the defense forced the Spartans off the field on their first drive of the game.
Matukewicz was impressed by kicker Ryan McCrum, who showed a lot of swagger
"How about this guy, McCrum," Matukewicz said. "Walking around with his shirt off and smiling like he had a new girlfriend."
McCrum had a great game and consistently put his team in great field position. He was a perfect 7-7 on PATs with 510 yards on kickoff, including four touchbacks on eight attempts.
"I was just glad to give Coach Tuke his first win. Can't ask for nothing better to open the season," McCrum said after the game.
Matukewicz was proud of how his players handled his process of preparing for the game as well as the support of the 7,143 fans who showed up at the Redhawk walk and in the stands.
Offensively the Redhawks ran the ball effectively, highlighted by junior running back DeMichael Jackson who had 148 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He was much too fast for the overmatched Spartans, but the look of the new passing spread offense took the field for the first time in Houck Stadium under Matukewicz.
Davis gave a lot of praise to offensive coordinator Sherard Poteete for putting players in the right places.
"I really like the offense, we have the players we need and it's an explosive offense, let's keep putting up points," Davis said.
Senior quarterback Kyle Snyder completed 10 out of 12 passes for 198 yards with a pair touchdowns, mostly on short completions and yards after the catch.
The ball was spread around to nine receivers. Junior wide receiver Paul McRoberts had a touchdown catch in the big win. However, the Redhawks had no deep completions of 15 yards or more against Missouri Baptist.
When asked about going deep Matukewicz pointed to the scheme of the Spartans and that big plays will come when needed. The versatile McRoberts believes that part of the passing game will come in time.
"We didn't get what we wanted tonight deep, but we will get better and work hard on it," McRoberts said.
On the defensive side of the ball a Farmington, Missouri, product and sophomore inside linebacker Roper Garrett and senior outside linebacker Wisler Ymonice from football hotbed Florida, each had big performances on a defense that pitched its first shutout under defensive coordinator Bryce Saia.
The Redhawks' defense only allowed the Spartans' offense to gain 81 total yards in the contest.
Garrett said in the postgame press conference that Saia wants the defense to lead the nation in effort and that the players have bought in to what coach is preaching.
Defensive leader Ymonice's interception added substance to his leadership that Roper said inspires the team.
The Redhawks will hit the road next week to challenge the Kansas Jayhawks, where they will be the underdog.
"We have to see how they will handle this win, will they go out and party all night? They have 24 hours then we start getting ready for next week," Matukewicz said. "So we will see, will they get some sleep, get hydrated and start preparing and we'll know where our football team is at weigh-ins tomorrow. I think I know my team, and I know they have been listening to me, and they've got some hard choices to make."
Matukewicz, who grew up in Kansas, said this upcoming game is important to him.
"It's important, it's home and everyone's going to be there," he said.
For now the coach will enjoy the great effort put by his team that put up 77 points, a new all-time record since moving to Division 1 in 1991 for the Redhawks and the new head coach.