Santacaterina injured in season opener against Arkansas State
The Southeast football team opened up their season with a 48-21 loss to the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Saturday, Sept. 1, in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The Redhawks hung with Arkansas State, a Football Bowl Subdivision program, for one half before faltering in the second half without starting quarterback Daniel Santacaterina, who was injured on a controversial play in the closing minutes of the first half.
“We can just gain experience from it,” junior inside linebacker Zach Hall said. “We’re playing against a bigger O-line than we normally would in the [Ohio Valley Conference], and bigger skill players. We got a lot to learn from it. I feel like we came out on top in some ways.”
Hall had 22 tackles in the game, a career high, and most by any NCAA player in the first week of the season. He was named the OVC Defensive Player of the Week and the STATS National Defensive Player of the Week.
Southeast head coach Tom Matukewicz said, despite playing a bigger school, that Southeast performed well.
“Up front, I thought we did a solid job,” Matukewicz said. “We got wore down on defense. But secondary-wise, we’re not going to play those types of wideouts.”
Two big plays in the first half by Southeast came at the hands of Santacaterina and senior running back Marquis Terry.
Santacaterina connected with junior wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson on a 52-yard pass to set up a five-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kobe Bryer to tie the score at 7-7.
Terry put himself on the board as well, rushing up the middle for a 67-yard touchdown to even the score at 14-14 at the 8:42 mark of the second quarter.
With two minutes left in the half, Santacaterina ran the ball for a gain of 11, but was knocked unconscious on tackle by Arkansas State sophomore safety Demari Medley, who was ejected from the game for targeting the junior quarterback’s head.
The second half is when Southeast’s playmaking began to falter.
“[It was a] tale of two halves,” Matukewicz said. “First half, we’re playing well and holding up with them. We got a little tired, obviously, on defense. I think when Daniel went out, the steam kind of left the Redhawks a little bit.”
Players felt that losing Santacaterina had a huge impact on the flow of the game, which Arkansas State led 21-14 at halftime.
“It’s tough to see one of your leaders go down, on of your brothers go down,” Hall said. “It took a little bit from everybody, I feel like. But, you know, we just have to respond better. The momentum did swing a lot after halftime, but we have to do a better job of responding as a whole team.”
Arkansas State scored on its first possession of the second half to set the tone for the remainder of the game. The Redhawks were only able to score once in the second half, on a 14-yard rush by fifth-year senior quarterback Anthony Cooper. Arkansas State reached the end zone four times in the second half, sealing the game for the Red Wolves.
Although the results of the game were not in the Redhawks favor, Matukewicz said he saw a lot that he liked in the first game of the season.
“Well, we played pretty clean,” Matukewicz said. “They had a lot of stupid penalties, but we played fairly clean. We had a couple of false starts, but really, I like that. I think, offensively, we’ve improved. We’re really looking forward to game two in that offense.”
Senior offensive tackle Drew Forbes said there was a lot of good to take from this game.
“I think we executed great at times,” Forbes said. “We got fatigued, and there were a few more penalties and a few more mental errors that we can correct, on my part as well. There’s a lot of good things, and a few bad things that we can get off the field. We sort of gained some clarity of who we are, and what we need to do to win the conference this season.”
The Redhawks total yardage was 333, while Arkansas State totaled 694 yards. Southeast passed for 163 yards and one touchdown, with 89 yards and the lone touchdown coming from Santacaterina and 74 yards coming from Cooper. Arkansas State passed for 497 yards, with the bulk of those coming from senior Justice Hansen, along with six touchdowns.
Sophomore Zack Smith led the Redhawks in receptions with six, while junior Kirk Merritt led Arkansas State with five receptions. Southeast’s leading rusher was Terry, who picked up 83 yards on nine carries, and added a touchdown. Freshman Marcel Murray led the Red Wolves on the ground with 55 yards on 10 carries.
Santacaterina is being evaluated day-to-day, and his status for next week is undetermined. Southeast will play its home opener against Dayton on Sept. 8 at Houck Field.