Jacksonville State running back Washaun Ealey led the way with 143 yards and two touchdowns as Jacksonville held on to beat Murray State 38-30 Saturday night at Stewart Stadium.
Quarterback Coty Blanchard added 157 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 79 yards on the ground for the Gamecocks.
Junior quarterback Casey Brockman threw 30 for 53 with 421 yards and two touchdowns in the loss for the Racers. Sophomore wide receiver Arthur Brackett proved to be an effective target with 181 yards on 8 catches with one touchdown.
The Gamecocks’ rushers combined for an astounding 320 yards on the ground and controlled much of the game’s pace behind an effective offensive line.
Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher gave credit to the visitors for their performance.
“Their running back was tough. He was just hard to tackle,” said Hatcher. “And Blanchard has a good scheme going. He gets the job done.”
Jacksonville State looked to have the game in hand late with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, but Murray State scored a late rushing touchdown and recovered the onside kick with less than a minute to go. The game ended on fourth down play with a Racer penalty that ran out the clock.
Brockman said the near comeback was a tough loss to swallow.
“If you look in that locker room right now, you’d see 90 guys who expected to win,” he said. “This loss really hurt. We didn’t lie down. We kept fighting to the very end, and I think everyone expected to win. This is a tough one to overcome. We’ll be all right. We’ll be back out there next week.”
Brockman said the Gamecocks’ defensive scheme forced the Racers to play a one-dimensional game. He said teams are planning to take Mike Harris out of the game and make the Racers beat them through the air.
“It’s putting a little stress on the passing game, because we’re going to have to throw it a little more,” he said. “Teams are stacking the box and making us beat them through the air.”
Hatcher said he agreed the Racers were forced out of their running attack.
“They were bringing seven men a lot,” he said. “We had to throw it. They were bringing it.”
Jacksonville State controlled the Racers’ rush by stacking the line, holding Murray State to just 41 yards on 15 carries.
The game also exposed sloppy play by the Racer special teams. Murray State had a field goal blocked, an extra point blocked and a muffed punt that set up a Jacksonville State touchdown.
The bright side for the Racers was the emergence of an impressive passing tandem of Brockman and Arthur Brackett.
The receiver downplayed his notable night, and said the entire offense played well as a team.
“I was just trying to help my team out,” Brackett said. “I didn’t feel any pressure. I’m here to do one thing, and that’s to catch the football. That’s what I went out here to do tonight.”
The loss drops the Racers to a 2-3 record overall and 1-2 in the OVC. Jacksonville State improves to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference.
Murray State will travel to Atlanta Saturday for a non-conference matchup with the Georgia State Panthers, who are the number 1 ranked FCS-level team. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Georgia Dome.