#20 Southeast Missouri (9-3) kept its historic season alive when it erased a 14-point deficit by scoring 28 third-quarter points en route to a 28-14 victory over #15 Stony Brook (7-5) Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship.
SEMO trailed, 14-0, at halftime after struggling against a tough Stony Brook defense in the first half.
The Redhawk defense, which leads the nation with a +27 turnover margin, then took the game over in the second half.
Justin Swift intercepted a Joe Carbone’s pass that was tipped by Clarence Thornton on the Seawolves opening drive of the second half.
The turnover gave the Redhawks the ball at Stony Brook’s 24-yard line. Four plays later, Daniel Santacaterina scored on a 16-yard run to make it a 14-7 game with 13:19 left in the third quarter.
On Stony Brook’s next possession, Carbone was intercepted again, this time by Taj Jenkins at the Seawolves 38-yard line. Santacaterina, after rushing for 29 yards on three carries, threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kristian Wilkerson which tied things up at 14-14 at the 10:06 mark.
Following a Stony Brook punt, SEMO took over on downs in Seawolves territory again at the 40-yard line. Three penalties, including an offsides, pass interference and personal foul helped get the Redhawks a first-and-Goal at the Stony Brook 9 before Santacaterina hooked up with Jerrick Orr on a 9-yard touchdown pass to give SEMO its first lead.
A 39-yard punt by Jake Reynolds hit Donavin Washington and Demarcus Rogers recovered the fumble at the Seawolves 38-yard line, again giving the Redhawks excellent field position. On the next play, Santacaterina tossed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Kristian Wilkerson with 3:42 on the clock.
SEMO’s 28 points tied for second-most in the third quarter during its NCAA Division I era as the Redhawks beat their second ranked opponent this season and eighth in program history.
“What an unbelievable third quarter,” said head coach Tom Matukewicz. “This team is special and continues to battle. We beat a very good Stony Brook team and it was exciting to see our defense get the momentum in the third quarter. It was an awesome win all-around.”
The Redhawks first-ever playoff win came during just their second postseason appearance of all-time. SEMO is in the postseason for the first time since 2010. In addition, Saturday’s win marked SEMO’s ninth this year tying the most wins in a season in program history.
Santacaterina completed 13-of-29 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns to lead SEMO offensively. He now has 28 touchdown passes, one shy of tying the school’s single-season record.
Wilkerson added five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns, while Zack Smith had three receptions for 50 yards.
Defensively, Zach Hall broke SEMO’s single-season tackles record when he turned in a game-high 13. Hall, who now had 163 tackles in his career, surpassed the previous mark of 151 by Blake Peiffer in 2011.
Swift followed with 12 tackles, a fumble recovery, one interception, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. As a unit, SEMO’s defense forced four turnovers.
Carbone threw for 211 yards and one touchdown on 15-of-27 and Julius Wingate made eight catches for 143 yards and a TD to lead Stony Brook.
The Redhawks hosted their first playoff game in front of a raucous crowd of 5,679.
SEMO travels to #2 Weber State for a second round matchup on Dec. 1.