Daniel Santacaterina threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter to lead #13 Southeast Missouri (9-3, 7-1) to a 31-24 win over rival Murray State (4-8, 2-6) Saturday at Houck Field.
Santacaterina broke SEMO’s all-time career record in passing touchdowns (46) as the Redhawks won a piece of the 2019 Ohio Valley Conference title. The OVC crown is SEMO’s second in program history and first in nine years.
“Words can’t describe the feeling, emotion and happiness this season has brought us,” said an elated head coach Tom Matukewicz. “This team continues to make plays and find ways to win and did that again today. I’m so proud of our team and this senior class. They have left their legacy on this program forever.”
SEMO’s 17 seniors took the field as the winningest class in the Redhawks NCAA Division I era and picked up their 23rd win as a unit. The special group was recognized during the team’s Senior Day festivities prior to kickoff.
The Redhawks trailed, 24-17, before going on their fourth-quarter assault to cut down the Racers.
Zack Smith was on the receiving end of Santacaterina’s touchdown passes in the final period. The first was a 17-yard reception on a perfectly placed throw in between defenders on a third-and-long. That play tied the game at 24-24 just five seconds into the fourth quarter.
After SEMO’s defense stopped MSU on a fourth-and-2, the Redhawks marched 51 yards in seven plays and completed that drive with the go-ahead touchdown on a 6-yard pass from Santacaterina to Smith with just under nine minutes left (8:57).
Then, the Redhawks defense disrupted any MSU momentum the rest of the way by making several huge plays. Clarence Thornton dropped TJ Warren for a loss when the Racers faked a punt. Later on, Lawrence Johnson broke up a pass on a fourth-and-18.
Lastly, after SEMO came up short on a fourth-and-1, Bydarrius Knighten broke up a Preston Rice pass on a fourth-and-5 to nail down the Redhawks sixth consecutive win.
The first half featured a 31-point second quarter as MSU led 24-17 at the intermission.
MSU was ahead, 10-3, following a 26-yard field goal by Zaden Webber with 11:33 remaining in the second quarter.
On the Racers next possession, Zach Hall picked off Preston Rice and ran 61 yards for a touchdown to give the Redhawks their first lead at 17-10 at the 7:37 mark. Hall’s 61-yard interception return tied the eighth-longest in school history.
MSU responded with back-to-back touchdowns to grab the lead at halftime.
Rice completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to LaMartez Brooks with 5:28 to go and later tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Armani Hayes in the final minute of the first half.
MSU, which entered the day with the lowest scoring offense in OVC play (16.4 ppg), surpassed that average in the first 30 minutes of the game.
SEMO’s defense, which gave up 286 total yards in the first half, allowed only 114 yards and shutout MSU in the final 30 minutes.
Santacaterina completed 29-of-39 passes, while Wilkerson caught 11 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Smith added five catches for 27 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Zach Hall led the Redhawks with 10 tackles, an interception and one pass breakup. Knighten and Swift followed with nine and eight tackles, respectively.
SEMO won its 13th-straight game at home and kept presently the OVC’s longest home winning streak intact. The Redhawks closed out a regular-season on a six-game winning streak for the first time in their D-I history, as well.
The Redhawks will find out where they land in this year’s 24-team FCS Championship bracket Sunday. The FCS Selection Show will air live at 11:30 a.m., CT, on ESPNU. Watch with the Redhawks at Dogwood Social House in Cape Girardeau. Doors open at 11 a.m.