CARBONDALE — He has three new starters in the secondary, a new offensive coordinator and a transfer quarterback that was just named the Ohio Valley Conference newcomer of the week.
Southeast Missouri State coach Tom Matukewicz can see his team evolving after a 27-point loss at Arkansas State and a 19-point win over non-scholarship Dayton Saturday.
"I love that we put a bunch of distance at the end of the game," Matukewicz said during Tuesday's OVC coaches teleconference. "How we finished the game. I told the team I really feel like we still have the ability to get a lot better. Game 2 and a new quarterback, and a new offense. I still feel like we can get a lot better."
The Redhawks (1-1), who play at SIU (1-1) Saturday night, trailed the Flyers (1-1) 21-20 after Tucker Yinger's 34-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Daniel Santacaterina, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior that started four games at Northern Illinois last year, then led three straight scoring drives to take control of the game.
Santacaterina found Kristian Wilkerson for an 18-yard touchdown with 11:49 to play and Zack Smith for a 73-yard bomb with 5:32 left. Running back Marquis Terry, the preseason offensive player of the year in the OVC, put the game away with a 95-yard touchdown run in the final three minutes.
Santacaterina completed 21 of 31 passes for 269 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was named the OVC co-offensive player of the week with Tennessee-Martin quarterback Dresser Winn. Terry rushed for 202 yards on 16 carries, and is averaging 11.8 yards a carry after two games.
Dayton's Jack Cook completed 22 of 45 passes for 281 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Yinger rushed for 115 yards on 22 carries. While the Redhawks are averaging six yards a carry this season, opponents are averaging 5.2 yards per rush.
That could bode well for the Salukis, who put up the fifth-most yards ever in a single game against, possibly, the best opponent they will see all year in Ole Miss. SIU rushed for 241 yards on 45 carries Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi, and passed for 388. Their 629 total yards were the most for the program since getting 673 in 2015 in a win over Missouri State.
SIU is 17 of 38 on third down this year, after converting 7 of 17 at Ole Miss, an FBS program.
Southeast Missouri State continued to struggle on third down Saturday against Dayton in its home opener, converting just 1 of 9 attempts. This year the Redhawks are 3 of 22 on third down, one thing Matukewicz believes will improve as the team gets more reps under new offensive coordinator Jeromy McDowell. McDowell, a former starting quarterback at Southeast Missouri State, returned to his alma mater after four years at Division II Colorado Mesa.
"The simple answer to that is the lack of execution," Matukewicz said. "You got 10 guys doing it right. Mabye it's a pass pro on this. I think a little bit of that it is is we're still learning our players a little bit. New offensive scheme, so, we're trying to put it together. If that's our third down statistic this week we're in trouble."