After the first quarter of play, the Murray State Racers led the Missouri Tigers 14-13 and looked nearly unstoppable on the offensive side of the ball.
The tide quickly changed, however, as Missouri scored 45 unanswered points en route to a 58-14 victory.
Senior defensive back Darrian Skinner got the team off to a strong start, stripping the ball and forcing a fumble on Missouri’s opening drive. The Racers recovered the loose ball and quickly drove down the field. At the 12:35 mark, sophomore quarterback Maikhail Miller found senior receiver Walter Powell for the 17 yard touchdown strike.
The Racers lost the lead after two consecutive Missouri touchdown drives, but blocked an extra point attempt on the second Tiger touchdown to stay within six points. Murray State then put together a methodical, 14- play, 83-yard drive to find the endzone.
Facing third and four on the Tiger five-yard line, the Racers pulled some trickery as Miller took the pass from sophomore receiver Jeremy Harness and made an ankle-breaking spin move to elude the Missouri defender and waltz in for the score and the lead.
When the first quarter expired, the Racers found themselves leading 14-13.
“I was really proud of the way we fought and competed all night,” Hatcher said. “For a quarter and a half, we went toe to toe with a good (Southeastern Conference) football team.”
Things started turning south for the Racers in the second quarter as Missouri’s superior size and depth began to take over. Miller’s second pass of the quarter was intercepted, and the Murray State defense struggled to contain senior Tiger quarterback James Franklin.
The Racers’ next three offensive possessions ended in punts and Missouri took a 30-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“You could tell about midway through the second quarter we ran out of gas, and I don’t think it was a lack of conditioning,” Hatcher said. “It was just a lot of us pushing on those big old boys Missouri had.”
The Racers struggled to keep up in the second half. The Missouri defense gave up only 46 yards to the Murray State offense in the second half.
Hatcher said the 98-degree heat was what did his team in.
“We were gassed at halftime,” Hatcher said. “I was hoping a lightning storm would hit and we could just call the game right there and go to the house, but we weren’t that lucky.”
Though the result wasn’t what the Racers were looking for, there were some encouraging signs. Miller efficiently handled the offense in his first live-game experience, completing 16 of 32 passes for 145 yards, while also running the ball 11 times for 77 yards. He would end the night with two touchdowns – one passing and one receiving – and three interceptions.
Sophomore receiver Paul Rice also continued his strong summer, leading the team with five receptions for 63 yards. Overall, Hatcher said he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We made a lot of mistakes – a lot of first game mistakes,” Hatcher said. “You know 58-14, you’re not happy about the outcome, but I am happy about the way our guys competed.”
While there were some positive takeaways for the Racers, Hatcher was forthright about the real reason his team would play a game against a superior SEC opponent.
“I don’t know what they paid us, but we get a pretty good check,” Hatcher said. “That’s the main reason we play a game like this.”
The Racers get their first crack at an non-FBS opponent next week as they take on Campbellsville in the friendly confines of Roy Stewart Stadium.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer