Seniors hit home turf one last time

Ed Marlowe
Staff writer

Senior Racers (5-4, 3-4 OVC) will suit up in front of their last home crowd to face the Austin Peay Governors (3-6, 2-4 OVC) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Roy Stewart Stadium.

As the final home game of the season, preparations have been made to celebrate Senior Day as a tribute to football players finishing their last year of eligibility with the team.

Adding to the excitement of Senior Day is the playoff hunt, which the Racers stayed in with a nail-biting 38-37 victory over No. 15 Tennessee Tech (5-3, 4-2 OVC) last Saturday in Cookeville.

The win marked the first time the Racers had defeated a ranked opponent on the road since 1996 and the first time the Racers won in Cookeville since 1999.

Head Coach Chris Hatcher said the team is excited to build on the win, but said the team is still inconsistent and loses focus during games.

“When you have a chance to break the game open, you have to take advantage,” Hatcher said. “We need to make a few more plays down the stretch, but overall our discipline is improving.”

The Governors, who use ball control and clock management to play keep away from potent offenses, began their OVC schedule with an impressive 23-17 win against first place Eastern Kentucky.

However, the wins have not come in bunches since then, and Hatcher said he’ll have the team ready to face a Governors program searching for another marquee victory.

Austin Peay will likely line up and run the ball, Hatcher said, as the Governors rely on the legs of senior running back Ryan White and junior running back Wesley Kitts.

White averages 4.7 yards per carry and 96.4 yards per game, while Kitts burns teams for an average 6.2 yards per carry and another 54.2 yards per contest.

“They’re going to line it up and run it right at us,” Hatcher said. “We’ve had trouble all season trying to stop a big, powerful back. We have to get them in some third-and-long situations and play good coverage to get after them.”

Fortunately for the Racers, the Governor defense allows 400.7 yards of offense per matchup, allowing 180 yards on the ground and 220 through the air.

The Racers will counter with senior running back Mike Harris, who is averaging 119 yards from scrimmage per game, and junior quarterback Casey Brockman, who is slinging for almost 320 yards per contest.

For the first time this season, the Racers converted all PATs and FGs against Tennessee Tech.

“It’s frustrating because we practice it all the time,” Hatcher said. “Every Sunday after practice we stay out there until we get it right with those guys.”

Hatcher said Saturday will be a good day to recognize the seniors of his team and the struggles and triumphs they have shared together over the seasons.

“A lot of those guys signed up here with a different coach and now they’ve got me,” he said. “Some of these guys have bought in and really been the backbone of our team.”

Senior kicker Kienan Cullen was named Adidas OVC Specialist of the Week for his effort against Tennessee Tech and will be kicking in his final home game this Saturday.

“It seems like I’ve been here forever,” Cullen said. “But at the same time it feels like time has flown by fast. This will be the first game my entire family gets to come and it will be a real special day.”

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