NASHVILLE --- The Ohio Valley Conference portion of the 2002 football schedule begins for Tennessee State as the Tigers travel to play the upstart Southeast Missouri State Indians. Kickoff is 6 p.m. from Houck Stadium in Cape Girardeau.
Tennessee State hopes the rigors of a challenging non-conference schedule will pay dividends as conference play begins against another tough opponent. The Tigers will be meeting a Southeast team, which is coming off a 24-14 upset win at Division I-A Middle Tennessee State. The Indians are 3-2 overall with their two defeats coming in games that went down to the wire.
The Tigers have been looking to establish a starting quarterback heading into the beginning of conference play. True freshman Dwayne Buchanan, started last week’s game against Florida A&M in the Atlanta Classic and is expected to start against Southeast. Buchanan will be playing near his hometown of St. Louis. He completed 14-26-2 passes for 205 yards in his collegiate debut.
The Tigers rushing attack is led by senior transfer Sugar Sanders and sophomore Charles Anthony. Sanders has 332 yards on 62 attempts while Anthony has 325 yards on 45 carries in four games. Anthony has been slowed by an ankle injury and re-aggravated the injury in the A&M game. He broke a streak where he had cross the 100-yard mark in consecutive games, and had 83 yards on only seven carries at the time of his injury. He had a season-long 66-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
TSU senior linebacker Jermaine Beale has received the team’s Defensive Player of the Week award each of the past two weeks. Beale has a team-leading 47 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Cornerback Scott Cunningham is the OVC’s leading pass defender, credited with 13 breakups and one interception.
With their big win, Southeast Missouri is ranked as high as 26th and 29th nationally in two I-AA polls this week. The victory was Southeast’s first-ever over a Division I team and the first for an OVC school against a I-A team since 1996.
Senior running back Keiki Misipeka, a transfer from Hawaii, rushed for 144 yards and one TD in the win over Middle Tennessee and won both OVC Offensive Player of the Week and OVC Newcomer of the Week. Junior linebacker Ricky Farmer was OVC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 tackles and two quarterback sacks.
The Indians also feature senior receiver Willie Ponders who leads the OVC in all receiving categories. Ponder leads in receiving yards per game (113.0), and receptions I7.4). He already has five TD receptions.
TSU has won the last five games in the series against Southeast and holds a 6-5 edge. The Tigers made a late goalline stand last season to come away with a 20-14 win in Nashville.