CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Eastern Kentucky University’s football team built a 31-14 lead early in the third quarter, but couldn’t hold off a comeback bid by No. 17 Southeast Missouri State University in a 38-31 loss on Saturday at Houck Stadium.
The Redhawks (7-3, 5-1 OVC) broke a 31-31 tie on a 12-yard touchdown run by Zion Custis with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter. EKU (5-5, 3-3 OVC) drove to the SEMO 38 yard line in the final seconds, but a long pass to the end zone was intercepted.
Daryl McCleskey Jr. rushed for 75 yards and scored a touchdown. Southeast totaled 466 yards of offense led by quarterback Daniel Santacaterina who threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
The Eastern defense forced four first half turnovers and took a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime. EKU grabbed an early lead by taking its first possession of the game and driving 65 yards in eight plays. McCleskey carried the ball on the final three plays for 27 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run.
The Redhawks tied the game on their ensuing possession. Then the two teams exchanged scores. Samuel Hayworth made a 29-yard field goal for the Colonels before Santacaterina threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to give SEMO a 14-10 advantage.
EKU pushed across two touchdowns in the final six minutes of the second quarter. A fumble on a punt return by Southeast gave Eastern the ball at the six yard line. Quarterback Parker McKinney carried it up the middle on the next play for six. A fumble by Santacaterina on the Redhawks’ next possession gave the Colonels the ball at the SEMO 35 yard line. Four plays later, Alonzo Booth scored from 12 yards away. The point-after attempt put the visitors in front by 10, 24-14.
On the opening possession of the second half, Eastern was forced to punt, but the ball was downed at the SEMO five yard line. After a 1-yard gain on the ground, EKU’s Aaron Patrick got to Santacaterina in the end zone with a strip sack. Tre Turner recovered the ball for a touchdown and a 31-14 lead.
Southeast Missouri did not fold, scoring 17 straight points to tie the game. A 4-yard touchdown run by Zion Custis got the Redhawks within three with 11:22 left in the game. On the next offensive possession, Kendrick Tiller finished off a four-minute drive with a game-tying 40-yard field goal with 5:55 on the clock.
The Colonels will play their final home game of the season next Saturday when Tennessee Tech visits Roy Kidd Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.