Running back Matt Denham rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback T.J. Pryor added 179 yards and two passing touchdowns as Eastern Kentucky held on to beat Murray State 34-33 on Saturday.
The Colonels led for most of the game, which was marred by sloppy play, turnovers and penalties from both teams. Murray State forced a last-ditch effort before being stopped on downs in the last two minutes.
Senior running back Mike Harris rushed for 206 yards and junior quarterback Casey Brockman picked up after a slow start to pass for 332 yards and three touchdowns for the Racers in a losing effort.
The Racers overcame an opening 46-yard touchdown run by Matt Denham, but missed opportunities hindered them at key moments in the game.
Sophomore linebacker Qua Huzzie had a big game on defense with eight solo tackles and two sacks.
Huzzie said the defense played like it had nothing to lose.
“There was no doubt that we had the confidence to come back,” Huzzie said. “From the start the defense said we were going to play like our backs were against the wall. Our defense did well. If it weren’t for a couple of big plays, I feel like the outcome would have been different.”
Brockman said Eastern Kentucky showed discipline on defense, while the Racer offense missed key opportunities.
“We just didn’t make the play at the end when we needed to,” Brockman said. “I’d say they’re one of the best defenses we’ve seen all year, and that’s including Louisville.”
Racer Coach Chris Hatcher expressed disappointment in the many Racer miscues.
“This was a very frustrating day for us,” Hatcher said. “We made some big plays in the fourth quarter to bring the game to one point, but throughout the course of the game we didn’t make the plays when they were there to be made. We did play hard, we didn’t quit, but they made the big plays when they needed to, and we just weren’t good enough to do that.”
Murray State dropped to 4-4 overall (2-3 in the OVC), while Eastern Kentucky improved to 5-3 overall (4-1 in the OVC).
The Racers will go on the road and play at 1:30 Saturday at Tennessee Tech.