Open Mouth, Insert Football: Homecoming musings

Ben Morrow
Sports columnist

As one of the not-so-many fans who made the great sacrifice of staying past halftime to see the thrilling finish of last week’s Homecoming game (yes, they continue playing football after the halftime show), I give you my reflections on the big game.

Reflection No.1: Casey Brockman is King.

I pity the fool who thought he had a shot at Homecoming King against Brockman this year. Not only is the Hatch Attack quarterback climbing the ladder for career records at Murray State even as a junior, but the hometown hero is also a legacy. Casey’s brother, Tyler, won the crown in 2009. The bash brothers are the only two leatherheads to ever be on the Murray State Homecoming Court, and they’re two for two.

Besides the peripheral festivities, there was also a football game on Saturday, and a darn good one at that. One event of note was No. 12 quietly becoming the fifth Racer to pass for 5,000 career yards, jumping Larry Tillman in career yards to fourth overall with a total of 5,160 yards. The school record is held by Michael Proctor, who passed for a total of 8,632 yards in his career.

Brockman also adds 34 touchdowns and a 64 percent completion rating with only 16 interceptions to his career stat book so far. With a year and a half left to add to his numbers, the fan favorite is on track to establish his place in the Murray State record books. The local boy seems to be a perfect piece to Coach Hatcher’s offensive scheme.

Reflection No.2: Mike Harris is back.

Brockman spent much of the game deferring to the (occasional) starting runningback Mike Harris, who (ahem) decided his boo-boos are better (ahem) after not playing against Georgia State, a benching that is being reported as due more to a lackluster effort in practice than to nagging injuries. Harris, who has since discovered he does indeed produce more by being on the field than by watching from the sidelines, posted a season-high 30 rushing attempts for 133 yards and four touchdowns, earning him the honor of OVC Player of the Week.

Harris’ play has been hit or miss so far this year. Saturday’s game was Harris’ fourth at 100 yards rushing this year, notwithstanding last week’s DNP and a couple of forgettable outings against Tennessee State and Jacksonville State. If Harris can consistently demonstrate the type of play down the stretch that he showed last weekend and finish strong in his senior year, he will give Hatcher the run/pass balance needed for his two-pronged offensive attack.

Reflection No.3: The defense has a couple of studs on the front seven.

Kevin Robinson and Sam Small. Defensive end and linebacker. Get to know these guys. Watch for them on the field. Small will be the guy flying around making big hits, and Robinson will be the guy busting through the offensive line to squash the quarterback like a bug.

These two have been big all year. On Saturday, Robinson played like he was bigger than everyone else on the field. Listed at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, Robinson outmuscled his way to the quarterback for one and a half timely sacks, including a huge forced fumble and recovery late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Reflection No.4: The terrible call.

If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. Roughing the passer, my big ol’ white hiney! Great sack guys. Way to play. Hatcher should still be yelling at the refs for that one.

Reflection No.5: Help wanted. Cornerbacks desperately needed.

To be fair, the Racer defensive backfield is cursed. Anyone that tries to line up at cornerback for Murray State apparently places his ACL in imminent danger. With that said, the coaching staff is about ready to start recruiting Racer Band members to play in the secondary. The corner position is so decimated by injury that secondary coach Keith Hatcher was supposedly asking little kids on the street if they wanted to suit up and get out there. (No confirmation on the report that Racer Day doubled as a recruiting day for promising 8 year olds.)

Right now the average opponent’s receiver who lines up against our fill-ins looks like Calvin Johnson versus Mini Me. They’re simply bigger and faster. Our kicker is listed at 6-foot-3, 224 pounds. Our cornerbacks and safeties average about 4-foot-3 and 85 pounds. when soaked down with a water hose. I don’t doubt the effort. But as somebody said sometime, somewhere, “You can’t teach size.” (Do I cite that quote in Chicago style or MLA? I always forget.)

Reflection No.6: The team is not perfect, but they don’t quit.

This is precisely why the Racers continue to be so much fun to watch. They were rewarded for their refuse-to-lose attitude on Homecoming Day. After keeping it close against physically superior squads Louisville and Jacksonville State, the Racers finally broke through in the fourth quarter of Saturdays game by coming back from 10 points down with 10 minutes to play to beat Eastern Illinois by nine (36-27). It was an exciting comeback, and more importantly, a demonstration of the team’s tenacity. Racer fans who stayed until the end saw a determined team that never quits and found a way to win. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

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