Catch up on previous 2021 opponent previews!
Hello again, SEMO.
Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) is a public university in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The institution, having started as a normal school, has a traditional strength in teacher education. The recent addition of the River Campus, housing the Holland School College of Arts and Media, has increased the university’s commitment to education in the arts. The institution offers over 200 areas of study, including undergraduate degrees as well as master’s degrees and a cooperative Ed.D. program with the University of Missouri.
I have no idea what “...started as a normal school” means but I’m super glad that factoid was included in their Wikipedia page!
With all due respect to any SEMO graduates out there, the only interest the school has from a sport-perspective on this here website is when they are hired to die a terrible football death at the hands of the flagship university of the state of Missouri.
And, so far, Redhawk valiant losses have been the rigueur de jour when these two teams meet, regardless of team quality:
September 6th, 2008: led by Chase Daniel’s three passing touchdowns and Derrick Washington’s three on the ground, Missouri nearly set the school record for most points in a half with 42. The first-team offense left at the beginning of the 2nd quarter.
- Final: Missouri 52 - SEMO 3
- Records: Missouri 10-4, SEMO 4-8
September 15th, 2015: Russell Hansbrough, Evan Boehm, and Connor McGovern all receive injuries that bother them for the rest of the season while a dominant defense, covering for Maty Mauk’s 12-22 performance, lead the way to a hollow victory.
- Final: Missouri 34 - SEMO 3
- Records: Missouri 5-7, SEMO 4-7
September 19th, 2019: Kelly Bryant, Larry Rountree III, Tyler Badie, and Albert O all score on offense, Richaud Floyd returned a punt for a score, and Cale Garrett returned an interception for a score...all in the 1st quarter. The Tigers hold SEMO to 94 total yards and 2-18 on 3rd downs.
- Final: Missouri 50 - SEMO 0
- Records: Missouri 6-6, SEMO 9-4
There are no guarantees in sports, especially college sports, but it would seem that Missouri beating SEMO in football is a consistently recurring event...even when the Redhawks are good*!
Here’s what they did last “season”:
*good for FCS, anyway
Yes, you read that correctly: SEMO’s season started on October 30th and ended on April 11th. They didn’t play that entire time, obviously, but the FCS folks had the weirdest time during the COVID-altered 2020/2021 football season. What that means is that, after taking nearly a 121-day break in between 2020 season games, they will take a 144-day break between the conclusion of the ‘20 season and the start of the ‘21 season...I mean, the second 2021 football season. Right? What is time? Ok, moving on!
Tom Matukewicz - 8th Year - 38-42 (29-25)
Tom has been in Cape Girardeau for almost 8 years now and has two 9-win seasons to show for it. That 2019 squad made it into the FCS Playoff where they lost to an Illinois State team that took North Dakota State to the wire in the quarterfinals. He hasn’t changed his staff up much — the coordinators from 2019 are still there, as are a good chunk of the assistant pool — but the type of team he’s deploying is quite a bit different now. I’m not sure what the “hot-seat” culture is at the FCS level, but after two straight 9-win seasons and a Playoff appearance (plus an extension that came in 2018) it seems like Matukewicz is safe to coach at SEMO for the foreseeable future...like 2028 and 2030 when these two teams meet again.
Jeromy McDowell - Offensive Coordinator: McDowell is a former SEMO quarterback and, as his bio brags, lists 8th all-time in season pass efficiency, 7th in passing yards per game, 9th in career touchdown passes, 10th in attempts and yards, and 2nd in completion percentage. His offenses have tended to utilize the quick bubble/screen game to get the ball to his receivers and have them make a few moves to turn a 2-yard screen into a 20-yard gain. When it works, it works, but it requires some actual talent in the receiving corps...something that was definitely lacking last year.
Bryce Saia - Defensive Coordinator: Saia has been with Matukewicz since their days at Toledo when they were Safeties coach and Defensive Coordinator, respectively. Saia is one of two coaches on the staff that have been with Matukewicz since the beginning and his defenses have been pretty consistent for the most part, stifling in the red zone and logging sacks in passing situations. While each team’s disruption production varies from season to season and player to player, overall the Redhawks under Saia are good at generating havoc...unless they’re playing Missouri, of course.
Matt Martin - Special Teams Coordinator
Andre Crenshaw - Running Backs
Justin Drudik - Wide Receivers
Justin Kramer - Tight Ends
Jason Onyebuagu - Offensive Line
Jerome Williams - Defensive Line
Tyler French - Inside Linebackers
Ray Smith - Cornerbacks
If OC Jeromy McDowell has his way, he’d consistently be utilizing the quick passing game to spread out defenses to open up lanes for running backs to feast in the middle. But last year was a completely different offense, with the Redhawks averaging 37 rushes per game to only 27 passes with an extremely poor 56% completion rate. I’m not sure if they all-of-a-sudden switched to a deep-ball chuck fest or the receivers replaced their fingers with toes but the passing game wasn’t working and the Redhawks went extreme ground-and-pound because of it. The fact that they could rely on their curveball and still go .500 on their schedule is impressive, but with a brand new quarterback taking over, the passing game is an issue that will need to be rectified in the four months of down time they have in between seasons.
Quarterback - Jacob Buie - Sophomore
Former Nebraska Cornhusker Andrew Bunch was last year’s starter for SEMO, throwing for 1,370 yards on a 56.6% completion percentage with 8 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
And he was the guy that won the starting job.
Bunch elected to move on from football and now the Redhawks have a three-way battle for the starting position, led by grizzled veteran backup Jacob Buie, who’s completed 4 passes on 10 attempts for a whopping 21 yards. There is a chance redshirt freshman Jalyn Williams or Christian Perez make a push in fall camp, but per early spring practice reports (held in May lol), Buie is the guy getting the most reps. Missouri fans saw Buie complete 2 passes for -4 yards in 2019; he’ll probably be better than that but even a
bad young Tiger secondary should be able to limit his effectiveness.
Running Back - Geno Hess - Redshirt Sophomore
The good news for the Redhawk offense is that Geno Hess is still on the roster. The sophomore from Peoria High School averaged 17 carries per game with 4.8 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns. He was seemingly the only weapon - especially on the ground where the next highest runner by carry had only 50 for the year - and yet still carved out enough space to tally 708 yards in 8 games. Unless the receivers have become lightyears better then Hess is the lone weapon, one which should be keyed in on to stifle any offensive threat SEMO contains.
Wide Receiver - Zack Smith - Graduate Student
I’m going to be blunt: the SEMO receivers suck real bad. Smith was their leading receiver, averaging 4 catches and 50 yards per game but at least he had half of their receiving touchdowns on the year! Johnnny King had 7 fewer catches than Smith...and no other player had more than 18 catches on the year. We’ll see if that can improve at all in the short time they have between seasons but it’s much more likely that one of the youngest secondaries the Tigers will ever field could feast on the Redhawk passing game.
SEMO’s defense like to operate like the Dave Steckel defenses of yore liked to operate: off-coverage in the secondary that could close on receivers quickly, volume tackling linebackers, and a defensive line that unleashed unspeakable hell on opposing quarterbacks when placed into obvious passing situations. The bend-don’t-break approach works if you can be stingy in the red zone and the Redhawks have typically been pretty good at that. And with their best defenders, a.) being young and b.) returning for 2021, this will most likely be a defensive-driven team once again.
Defensive Line - Bryson Donnell - Graduate Student
The 1st-Team All-Ohio Valley defensive tackle was a force to be reckoned with: 41 tackles (14 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 4 quarterback hurries from his 3-4 interior position is no easy task. He’ll lead a line that excels in creating pressure (at the FCS level, anyway) and letting their outside linebackers crash in for maximum disruption.
Linebacker - Mike Matthews - Sophomore
Matthews is a typical 3-4 inside linebacker that excels in cleaning up messes generated by the line. As a first-year starter Mike was second on the team in tackles, adding 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and a fumble as well. The linebacking corps is pretty young but very talented and good at generating pressure and havoc.
Defensive Back - Lawrence Johnson - Junior
You St. Louis folk might remember this name from Riverview Gardens High School. Johnson led the team in tackles, broke up 4 passes, intercepted another, and added a forced fumble for good measure. He’s less of a “last line of defense” safety and more of a box safety that plays closer to the line so you won’t see him much in coverage but will probably see him seeking out a ball carrier that eludes the linebackers. That aggression, particularly close to the line, can be taken advantage of but the Redhawk secondary was generally pretty solid in pass coverage last year, even with Johnson flying around the line of scrimmage.
So what does it all mean?
It’s an FCS team. You should win, and win easily, and get your freshmen in as soon as possible to burn one of the four games they get during their redshirt season. Missouri will be young and untested in several position groups but should still outclass the Redhawks up and down the roster. If you don’t see Tyler Macon or any of the other non-starting freshmen in the second half, something has gone terrible wrong. The Tigers need to take this time to get some experience, iron out any issues they still have, and gear up for a challenging road trip the next week.