The Racers (4-6, 3-4 OVC) shipped up to Richmond, Ky., last Saturday needing a win against the No. 1 defense in the conference owned by the 17th-ranked Eastern Kentucky Colonels (8-3, 6-2 OVC).
The Racers did net get what they came for losing 55-22.
It seemed as if the Racers had solved the Colonels’ defense, as a touchdown catch by senior wide receiver Walter Powell gave Murray State a 24-20 lead with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. The Colonels, however, did not take kindly to the Hatch Attack moving at will, and, in response, parried the blow and responded with 35 unanswered points, shutting out the Racers in the second half en route to a convincing 55-24 victory.
For all of the emphasis in improving the passing defense, it was the rush defense giving the Racers fits all night, as the Colonels piled on 387 rushing yards for the contest, including 214 yards and three touchdowns from senior running back Matt Denham.
While a victory moved the Colonels into second place in the OVC standings, the loss ensured a losing season for the Racers, the first under the leadership of Head Coach Chris Hatcher.
“We didn’t have the firepower to hang with them for four quarters,” Hatcher said. “When we saw the film, we realized those guys are just better than us, and unfortunately that’s the way it goes. You’ve got to give them great credit; they’ve built a good football program and a good team and they took the football and mashed it right down our throats and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Senior quarterback Casey Brockman mustered perhaps his best performance of the season by completing 34-47 passes for 343 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, but was left wanting after facing duress all game and suffering six sacks and a lost fumble behind the line of scrimmage.
Powell continued his campaign up the leaderboards of school history, catching eight passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. With 90 receptions and 1,162 yards on the season, Powell is now the school leader in both categories for a single season.
“I said it from the get go, he’s not scared of anybody,” Hatcher said of his performance. “As many big plays as he makes, he makes a couple busts here and there that seem to come at inopportune times, but then he’ll catch a touchdown on a play where he really wasn’t supposed to be there. He just plays so hard. He had a great day.”
Powell and Brockman are just two of 16 seniors ending their career in the Blue and Gold this Saturday on Senior Day against the Southeast Missouri Redhawks (3-7, 2-5 OVC).
While honoring the seniors is important each year, Hatcher said his philosophy stays the same every week, regardless of the circumstances.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Senior Day or any day, we want to win,” he said. “We want to play for pride like we do every week and want to play to prove we’re better than the opponent that’s coming into town this weekend.”
SEMO comes into Saturday’s matchup sporting one of the strongest rushing attacks in the conference behind freshman quarterback Scott Lathrop and senior running back Levi Terrell.
Working under the option formation, Terrell (113.4 yards/game) and Lathrop (70.5 yards/game) combine for an average 180 yards rushing contest, while SEMO averages nearly five yards per carry and 244 yards rushing per game. Regardless of last week’s disheartening loss, Hatcher said he knows the guys will be ready to play come Saturday.
“They run a lot of option, which is just a different animal you have to prepare for and defensively they haven’t been giving up a bunch of big plays,” he said. “It depends on which team shows up for us. I think we’ll practice well and I think we’ll be ready to play.”
Kickoff for the final game of the season is set for 1 p.m. at Roy Stewart Stadium.
Story by Edward Marlowe, Staff writer.