The Racers (4-4, 2-3 OVC) look to upset this weekend as they travel to Tennessee Tech (5-2, 4-1 OVC) to battle in front of the Golden Eagles’ Homecoming crowd.
While the Racers are coming off last Saturday’s excruciating 34-33 loss to Eastern Kentucky, the Golden Eagles are flying high after a 21-14 win over OVC powerhouse Jacksonville State.
Combine the big win with a raucous Homecoming crowd and the environment is sure to be hostile and competitive.
History is against the Racers, who have not won in Cookeville, Tenn., since 1999.
Coach Chris Hatcher said while the team was disappointed with the latest setback, spirits are high in the locker room and practice remained focused throughout the week.
“We’ve got to get that one behind us,” Hatcher said. “We can’t let that one cost us an opportunity this Saturday to better our record and get over .500.”
The Racers have plagued themselves with inconsistent play this season, allowing opponents to outscore them 56-73 and 58-70 in the first and third quarters, respectively.
However, the Racers have been absolutely dominant in the second and fourth quarters, outscoring offenses 87-54 and 78-22, respectively.
Hatcher said losing focus during games has been a concern for most of the season.
“One play we lose focus and guys aren’t doing what the keys say, and then we just get gashed,” Hatcher said. “With guys returning from injury, they haven’t played in a while and we’ve got a lot of walk-ons. To focus guys on that many plays during a game is hard to do.”
While youth and depth are questioned for the budding Racer squad, Tennessee Tech boasts a team built on veteran play and comfort within an installed football system.
Junior quarterback Tre Lamb leads the Golden Eagle offense, averaging 230 passing yards per game, with 93 yards a game going to top weapon senior wide receiver Tim Benford.
Throw into the mix senior running back Dontey Gay who has 700 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on the season, and the Racer defense has a challenge rolling into the matchup.
Murray State’s defense currently allows 213 yards passing, but is getting gutted in the trenches for almost 180 rushing yards per game.
The return of sophomore linebacker Qua Huzzie last Saturday automatically upgraded the defense, and he will be a key player coming into this weekend’s matchup. Against EKU he finished with 13 tackles (eight solo), four tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass break-up. The stat-line earned him Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors from the OVC as well as National Co-Defensive Player of the Week by the Sports Network.
While quarterback Casey Brockman finished with more than 300 yards and three touchdowns against EKU, it was the electrifying play of senior running back Mike Harris keeping the Racers in the game. Harris finished with 206 yards on just 21 carries, earning him the National Running Back of the Week award.
Hatcher said success from Brockman and Harris will be key for a victory this weekend.
“They do a really good job of mixing up their zone and man coverage,” Hatcher said. “Their defense doesn’t have many holes and creases in it and they don’t make many mistakes.”
Junior defensive back Julian Whitehead said the team felt a sense of urgency this week as the Racers remain in the playoff hunt.
“The playoffs start this weekend for us,” Whitehead said. “At this point we have to win out. That’s how we see it in the locker room. We just shake off the last loss and keep going.”