A week after losing to Jacksonville State 38-30, the Murray State Racers ended their two-game losing streak with a 48-24 victory over Georgia State in their final non-conference game of the season.
The win marked the first time the Racers have won more than one non-conference games in a season since 2002, when they went 2-2 in non-conference games.
Playing in the Georgia Dome on the same turf as the Atlanta Falcons, Murray won the coin toss but deferred to the second half. Georgia received and the first several minutes were spent with short passes until Murray got on the scoreboard with a touchdown by Murray’s wide receiver Walter Powell and a field goal by punter Brandon Potts.
With 4:24 to go in the first quarter, the Panthers responded with a touchdown and a field goal to tie the score at 7.
A 45-yard field goal by Georgia’s Christian Benvenuto brought the score to 10-7 in the Panther’s favor and proved to be the last significant play in the first quarter.
Despite incomplete passes from both teams,Murrayhad no fumbles, interceptions or penalties in the first quarter.
Less than five minutes into the second quarter, quarterback Casey Brockman threw for another touchdown and Potts scored the field goal, pushing the score to 14-10.
The Racers showed confidence and determination in play and in the last four minutes of the first half Murray continued to dominate as runningback Duane Brady scored the Racer’s third and fourth touchdowns with Potts’ field goals bringing the score to 28-10.
In the third quarter, wide receiver Dexter Durrante rushed 12-yards for the fifth Racer touchdown of the day with 9:49 minutes left.
Twenty-six seconds later, Georgia’s wide receiver Danny Williams scored the Panther’s second touchdown and, with the addition of the extra point, brought the score to 35-17.
Another Georgia touchdown brought the score to 35-24 in the game where Murray’s offense took the spotlight.
Linebacker Brandon Wicks knocked down an intended touchdown pass before the Panthers missed a field goal opportunity.
Murrayredeemed themselves from a penalty on an attempted touchdown when Powell rushed for 36-yards to complete his second touchdown of the day raising the score 42-24.
Another touchdown from Murray brought the score to 48-24 where it stayed for the remainder of the game.
“It was a big win for us today, we’ve been struggling the past two weeks and it was good to see us come out and see us play well, especially early in the game,” Coach Chris Hatcher said. “I thought on defense we made some big stops and didn’t tackle particularly well all the time. Offensively, it was big plays today that got us over the hump. I thought our special teams were outstanding in all phases today, we had great field position early and made some big returns and got a good lead there in the third quarter and then almost gave it away.”
Hatcher said the week of practice leading to today’s game made the difference in getting the W.
“We challenged them and had the best week of practice we’ve had in some time and maybe since I’ve been the coach at Murray State,” he said. “Then we were able to go out there today and really at critical junctures of the ballgame our guys stepped up and made some really great plays and I’m proud to see that.”
Another difference maker was the location of the game, Hatcher said.
“It was a lot of fun for us, over 60 percent of our team including 90 percent of our coaches this is as close to home as we play all season and probably our career at Murray State so it was a big game for a lot of our guys, they put on a good show today and we beat a good Georgia State football team,” he said.
Johnson said he was trying to play well for his family who live in nearby Moultrie, Ga.
“I was just excited this is basically a home game for me and (my family) haven’t watched me since high school so I wanted to put on a show for them,” he said.
The Racers are heading home to prepare for Saturday’s Homecoming game against Eastern Illinois. Kick-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.