Brandon Wicks made sure the Racers secured their first win of the season.
With the Missouri State Bears driving for the win this past Saturday, the junior defensive back snatched a pass for an interception, sealing a hard-fought 28-23 victory on the road.
Senior quarterback Casey Brockman completed 41 of 59 attempts for 313 yards and two touchdowns and scrambled for another to give the Racers a brief 21-17 lead late in the third quarter.
The lead wouldn’t stick, however, as Missouri State junior quarterback Ashton Glaser scampered in for his own rushing touchdown just seconds before the third quarter expired. The Racers would block the extra point, making it 23-21 heading into the final frame.
After tweaking his hamstring before the season started, junior running back transfer Jamaal Berry finally got to showcase his skills in a blue and gold jersey.
The OVC Newcomer of the Week finished the game with 41 yards rushing on eight carries and caught the 15-yard game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
“I was pretty hyped about going in and getting to play,” Berry said. “On that first snap I was pretty hyped to get the ball in my hands and show everybody what I can do. I’m just excited to play football again.”
Bears junior wide receiver Dorian Buford led all receivers with nine catches and 112 yards, while Racer senior wide receiver Walter Powell continued to be Brockman’s go-to-guy, snagging 12 passes for 90 yards.
Junior linebacker Jarius Williams said the Racer defense responded this past weekend, coming out and tackling better and having a better nose for the ball, helping lead Murray State to its first victory of the season.
“We didn’t really change anything,” Williams said. “We just buckled down and started playing ball. We had a great team meeting before the game, and we came together and played as a team.”
The defensive turnaround could not have come at a better time, as the Racers once again hit the road Saturday to begin conference play at Eastern Illinois University.
In his first year as head coach, Dino Babers has the Panthers averaging more than 40 points and 458 yards of offense in the first three games of the season. Splitting carries in the backfield is senior halfback Jake Walker and sophomore tailback Taylor Duncan. Both are averaging more than 50 yards rushing per game. Leading the team is junior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who is throwing for 327 yards per game, mostly going to junior slot receiver Erik Lora for 125 yards per contest.
The Racers will try to counter the Panther’s mobile defense with the backfield trio of senior Duane Brady, junior transfer Jordan Morrow and junior transfer Jamaal Berry, as well as senior signal-caller Casey Brockman guiding the chains for quick first downs.
Head Coach Chris Hatcher said the momentum from a tough road win would help with this weekend’s battle, but warned of the tough matchup ahead for his team this weekend.
“They’re very quick on defense, and they move around a lot more than what we’ve seen out of teams the past couple of weeks,” Hatcher said. “They see our offense every day in practice because they run pretty much the same thing we do.”
Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. at O’Brien Field in Charleston, Ill.
Edward Marlowe, Staff Writer