Our Time Is Now: Anticipation heightens as Racers prepare for opener

After a 7-4 record in 2011, the Racers hope to notch back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1999 and 2000. They will begin their campaign against No. 7 Florida St. Saturday. || Kylie Townsend/The News

After a 7-4 record in 2011, the Racers hope to notch back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1999 and 2000. They will begin their campaign against No. 7 Florida St. Saturday. || Kylie Townsend/The News

In October 2002, then-NFL Head Coach Herman Edwards had one important thing to say to reporters after a humbling 2-7 start to the New York Jets’ season.

“You play to win the game,” Edwards said. “You don’t play to just play it. That’s the great thing about sports. You play to win, and I don’t care if you have any wins, you are going to play to win.”

Head Coach Chris Hatcher and the Racers agree-at least with the winning.

After going 6-5 in his inaugural season in 2010, Hatcher one-upped the record in 2011, going 7-4 as Murray State remained in FCS Playoff contention until the final weekend of the season.

If the Racers can manage to put together another winning season, it will be the first time since the 1999 and 2000 seasons they’ve had back-to-back successes. After 11 long years of inconsistency, Racer fans are longing for Wins.

With the addition of several FBS transfers in the past two years and the return of eight multi-year starters on both sides of the ball for the 2012 season, pulling the hat trick with a third consecutive winning season is not out of the question.

In fact, it’s a very real possibility.

Leading the potent “Hatch Attack” offense will be preseason All-American and senior quarterback Casey Brockman, who after nearly three years as a starter has already surpassed multiple school and OVC passing records.

The preseason All-OVC recipient passed for 3,276 yards with 25 touchdowns, nine interceptions and completed 66 percent of his passing attempts last season.

Surrounding him is a myriad of talent as senior running back Duane Brady, senior wide receivers Ja-Vonta Trotter and Patrick Robertson, Ohio State transfer junior running back Jamaal Berry and Costa College transfer junior wide receiver Jordan Morrow create an offensive machine, giving defenses nightmares and Brockman a surplus of options in the passing game.

On defense, preseason All-OVC defenders such as senior defensive end Kevin Robinson and junior linebacker Qua Huzzie are getting all the attention. The entire starting secondary for the 2012 Racers are returnees. Junior cornerback Darrian Skinner, senior bandit Darius Buck, junior rover Brandon Wicks and senior cornerback Julian Whitehead should continue to negate the pass with authority.

One of the Racers’ main obstacles, however, concerns the schedule.

The team opens Saturday against FBS National Championship contenders, the Florida State University Seminoles, who are ranked No. 7 and powered by Heisman candidate E.J. Manuel and a nasty defensive line that allowed less than 90 yards per game rushing last season.

It doesn’t get any easier, as the Racers start play at home against the Central Arkansas University Bears, who opened the season ranked No. 24 in the Sports Network Preseason Top 25.

Later in the season, as OVC play begins, the Racers face two division rivals who are also looking for the conference crown: the No. 22 Jacksonville State Gamecocks and No. 18 Eastern Kentucky Colonels. Both teams have the talent to derail any hopes of a dominating season the Racers could muster.

Fans like junior television production major Steve Peake, however, are expecting nothing but good things out of this year’s squad, and look forward to the coming games.

“How could you stop the Racers on offense?” Peake asked. “Anything shy of 30 points a game would be shocking. This team will be a whole lot of fun to watch.”

Here’s to hoping he’s right.