Southeast Missouri nearly pulled off a monumental comeback when it scored 28 second-half points, including 21 in the fourth quarter during a 34-28 loss to Kansas Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Southeast trailed, 24-0, at halftime before outscoring KU 28-10 in the final two quarters.
“I’m proud of our football team for the way we continued to fight,” said Southeast head coach Tom Matukewicz. “I couldn’t believe we were in a football game with three turnovers and 174 yards in penalties. I felt like our team grew up tonight.”
Paul McRoberts caught six passes for a career-high 173 yards and accounted for two of the Redhawks fourth-quarter touchdowns. McRoberts’ 173 yards were the most by a Southeast receiver since Miles Edwards had 208 vs. Southwest Baptist on Aug. 28, 2008.
KU scored 24 points in the first quarter and appeared to be on its way to a lopsided victory, but Southeast stormed back.
The ferocious comeback started when the Redhawks capitalized on a wild play to gain momentum early in the third quarter.
Tim Hamm-Bey blocked a 49-yard field goal attempt by Matthew Wyman. Reggie Jennings picked up the ball and pitched it to Eriq Moore. Ron Davis then wound up with the ball after it went off Moore’s hands and ran 18 yards to the KU 37-yardline.
KU was flagged for a personal foul which tacked an extra 15 yards onto the end of the play, giving Southeast excellent field position at the Jayhawks-22.
Four-straight rushing plays followed and DeMichael Jackson scored the Redhawks first touchdown of the game on a 7-yard run to narrow KU’s lead to 24-7 with 10:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Southeast’s Darrius Darden-Box recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the Redhawks were forced to re-kick after being ruled offside. Immediately after the re-kick, Montell Cozart threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Tony Pierson widening the Jayhawks lead to 31-7 just 17 seconds later.
Down, 34-7, Southeast opened the final quarter with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Snyder to Spencer Davis five plays into its drive. Davis made a nice catch in the back corner of the end zone in heavy coverage for his first TD reception of the season. Snyder also threw a 41-yard completion to McRoberts earlier in the drive to set up the score.
After Wyman missed a 49-yard field goal, Snyder threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to McRoberts on the very next play to slice KU’s lead to 34-21 with 10:39 left in the game.
Southeast forced the Jayhawks to punt and took over on downs at its own 11-yardline.
Lennies McFerren made some big runs, including a 29-yard carry on a 2nd-and-11, helping get the Redhawks into KU territory. On 4th-and-1 at the Jayhawks-41, Snyder picked up a first down to keep the drive alive.
Following a false start penalty by Southeast, Snyder completed a 12-yard pass to McRoberts to give the Redhawks a 1st-and-10 at the KU-29.
Southeast later faced a 4th-and-7 at the Jayhawks 26-yardline after two more false start penalties. McRoberts then made a spectacular catch in between two defenders in the end zone, as the Redhawks pulled to within six (34-28) with 1:33 on the clock. McRoberts’ TD closed out a 14-play, 89-yard march that consumed 6:36.
Nick Harwell recovered Southeast’s onside kick and KU managed to escape.
KU got on the board first with a 43-yard field goal by Wyman. On the second play of the drive, Tony Pierson ran 39 yards down the near sideline to move the Jayhawks in field goal range before Wyman’s kick gave KU a 3-0 lead.
Matthew Boateng intercepted Snyder’s third-down pass on Southeast’s next possession and KU had the ball at the Redhawks 36-yardline.
Three plays later, Corey Avery ran Montell Cozart‘s pitch 10 yards into the end zone, pushing the Jayhawks lead to 10-0 with 9:45 left to play.
KU added another score, this time on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Cozart to Harwell. The play polished off a 9-play, 81-yard drive as the Jayhawks went ahead 17-0 at the 4:06 mark.
After Southeast punted for the fourth time, KU started at its own 34-yardline. Harwell scored his second touchdown of the game when he caught a 10-yard pass from Cozart on a 3rd-and-6, grabbing the Jayhawks a 24-0 advantage.
Southeast did not have a first down and gained only 42 yards in the first quarter. The Redhawks also averaged 3.2 yards per play on its first four drives of the game.
Despite their slow start, the Redhawks (421) nearly caught up with the Jayhawks (457) in total yards.
Snyder completed 12-of-27 passes for a career-high 269 yards and three touchdowns. He had three interceptions, as well.
Along with his game-high 173 receiving yards, McRoberts completed the first pass of his career. He took a lateral from Jackson on a reverse and threw the ball 28 yards to Peter Lloyd.
McFerren finished as Southeast’s leading rusher with 47 yards on six carries. He averaged just under eight yards (7.8) per carry.
Defensively, Roper Garrett registered double-digit tackles for the second-straight game. Garrett had a game-high 14 tackles with 13 solo stops. He added one sack, a tackle for loss and forced a fumble.
De’Andre Mann rushed for 121 yards on 15 carries to lead KU.
Additionally, Southeast committed 14 penalties for 174 yards.
The Redhawks return to action at regional-rival and No. 25 Southern Illinois on Sept. 13.