Murray State (2-2) looks to rebound from a 48-26 loss to UT-Martin last Thursday as the Racers take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks (3-1) 6 p.m. Saturday at Roy Stewart Stadium.
Dexter Barnett, wide receiver and back-up cornerback, said the team is planning to move forward from the difficult loss.
“We’re putting that last game behind us,” Barnett said. “How we played – that really wasn’t us. We got big-headed and they rolled over us. We have a tough opponent coming in and we’re excited.”
Head Coach Chris Hatcher said his team is ready to go and is excited to return to familiar surroundings.
“We’ve got a big game at home and I’m glad to be back at home,” Hatcher said. “We play the best team in the conference so we’ve got to be ready to go.”
There was a lack of excitement both in the locker room and on the football field last Thursday, Hatcher said about the stinging loss.
“I’m sure they had their ears pinned back for us because we beat them pretty good last year,” Hatcher said. “Maybe we got to thinking we’re a little better than we really are, and when you put all that stuff together, you get a butt-whooping.”
While the offense will continue to employ a strong dose of Brockman and the Hatch Attack, Mike Harris will shoulder most of the running load as back-up running back Duane Brady will return kicks in place of injured specialist/wide receiverPatrick Robertson, Hatcher said.
Hatcher warned of Jacksonville State’s defensive prowess and how it could translate into a tough matchup for the Racers.
“Their defensive front is going to be the best we play,” he said. “They just have tremendous speed.”
Hatcher said injuries are a key concern coming into the game against the No. 1 seed in the OVC.
“We’re still beat up pretty good,” Hatcher said. “We played a very physical, intense game against Tennessee State and with a short week we had to be more physical at practice.”
The Racers will be without Robertson and shutdown corners Darrian Skinner and Lamar Hall this weekend Hatcher said they could be out for a while.
Junior wide receiver Ja-Vonta Trotter, who did not play last week against UT-Martin, is still listed as questionable with an undisclosed lower body injury, but should be ready for this week’s action.
Due to the myriad of injuries wreaking havoc on the depth chart, Barnett said he could see snaps at both receiver and corner.
“I’ll probably play a lot of defense this game,” Barnett said. “I will play some offense but, with the corners probable this week, most of my snaps will be on defense.”
Hatcher said the defense could have their hands full stopping a balanced Jacksonville State attack led by quarterback Coty Blanchard and running backs Washaun Ealey and Calvin Middleton. Combined, the players account for almost 300 yards of offense per contest with almost 180 yards per game coming from the rushing attack.
“Blanchard is one of the best in the conference,” Hatcher said. “He can do it all. He’s a threat throwing and a threat running. He can punt the ball well and he’s even a draftee for baseball.”
While Jacksonville State has held opponents to only 148 yards rushing per game, the Racers can exploit an aggressive, run-stopping secondary that allows 260 yards passing per game.
Hatcher expressed little issue with having a conference home game scheduled during Fall Break, saying that his players actually look forward to sleeping in and focusing on just football this weekend.
“The only negative we would get is that maybe some students who would be at the game may not be there,” he said. “Personally, I’d rather have the days in the spring when the weather is nicer.”
Hatcher remains positive about the team’s prospects and hopes to see the team continue to grow as the season continues.
“We’ve still got a ways to go,” he said. “We’re a better team than we were last year. Now, will that equal more wins than last year? We’ll never know. We’ve got to get healthy and we need some guys to step up.”