Through the first two games of the 2013 season, the Racers have had extreme ups and downs. In the first game, they were throttled by a far superior Football Bowl Subdivision team.
The next week, they handed down an even bigger beating of their own, defeating the NAIA Campbellsville Tigers.
This week, however, the Racers finally square off against an Football Championship Subdivision opponent as Missouri State visits Roy Stewart Stadium tomorrow evening.
Head Coach Chris Hatcher said those first two games helped find out who the team is.
“I consider (the last two weeks) as preseason games as we head into FCS play,” Hatcher said. “I think we made some improvement in areas, but the goal these last couple weeks was to find out who we are as a football team and what we’re going to be good at.”
After suffering a big loss at Missouri to open the season, the Racers responded last Saturday night, defeating NAIA opponent Campbellsville 83-14.
Senior running back Duane Brady led the attack with four first-half rushing touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Maikhail Miller also had a big first half, completing 17 of 21 passes for two touchdowns and 240 yards through the air.
Brady gave all the credit to his offensive line.
“We had great blocking on the perimeter so all I had to do was run the ball and make a couple cuts,” Brady said.
Midway through the second quarter, the Racers found themselves with a 48-0 lead and an opportunity to insert several backup players into the game.
Freshman running back Marcus Holliday took advantage of the rare playing time, leading the team in rushing and scoring his first career touchdown.
He finished the night with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
“We have high hopes for Marcus,” Hatcher said. “In the situation that we’re in, he’s a redshirt freshman and he’s got two experienced running backs who happen to be really good in front of him. If something was to happen to the other two we’d have no problem sticking him in the game.”
Junior linebacker Chavez Sims also had a big game, racking up four sacks and six tackles, while also forcing a fumble.
The Mize, Miss., native transferred to Murray after playing two seasons at Jones County Junior College.
In his first year at Murray State, Sims missed most of spring practice due to illness. After returning to Murray for fall camp in August, Sims had to leave the team due to the death of his mother.
“He’s a guy that hasn’t practiced a lot, but you’re talking about a fine young man and a hard worker,” Hatcher said. “He really played well the other night, and he’s really starting to come into his own, and that’s something we need at that position.”
The Racers now prepare to open their FCS schedule with Missouri State.
It will mark the eighth meeting between the two teams – the most recent coming last year when Murray State narrowly escaped Springfield with a 28-23 victory.
The Bears are off to an 0-2 start after dropping games to Northwestern State and Iowa.
They are looking end to 10-game, non-conference losing streak dating back to the 2010.
Missouri State is led by a stout defense returning 10 starters from last season.
Its defense revolves around All-American safety Caleb Schaffitzel and senior defensive back Sybhrian Berry, who registered 10 tackles last week against Iowa.
“Defensively, they have one of the better fronts that we face all year,” Hatcher said. “Offensively, they do a good job of being balanced and mixing the passing game in with the running game. They’re just a solid team and it shows.”
With the first two games of the season under their belts, the Racers will look to see how they stack up against more evenly matched competition.
The Racers and Bears kick off Saturday at 6 p.m. at Roy Stewart Stadium.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff Writer