When Walter Powell caught his fourth touchdown pass of the night with 24 seconds left in the game to defeat Missouri State last Saturday night, Head Coach Chris Hatcher got a bit emotional.
For the first time in his four-year tenure as Murray State’s head coach, Hatcher’s team was able to win a game in the final 60 seconds.
“I got a little choked up with the guys in the locker room,” Hatcher said. “When it normally happens like that, we don’t find a way to win and tonight we were able to do that. Hopefully, that’s a sign that we’re starting to turn the corner and can win some of those close ball games.”
Trailing 38-34, the Racers’ game-winning drive nearly stalled just 15 yards from the endzone. Facing fourth-and-10, Hatcher used his final timeout to call what would be the game-winning play.
Senior quarterback Maikhail Miller lofted a fade pass to the far corner of the endzone and Powell beat the coverage to pull it down and secure the Racer win.
“You’ve got to go with your best player there and get the ball in his hands,” Hatcher said. “He’s probably practiced that catch thousands of times. We work it every day and it was just great execution.”
Powell said the play was nerve-racking.
“There was a lot going through my head,” he said. “It was just the spirit of the moment right there. I’ve been practicing on that all summer, all camp, and that fade ball finally paid off.”
Powell was the story of the night, scoring five touchdowns total while amassing 301 all-purpose yards.
The senior wide receiver now leads the Ohio Valley Conference in total touchdowns (eight), receiving touchdowns (seven) and ranks second in all-purpose yards (451).
Both Powell and sophomore quarterback Miller received recognition for their efforts against Missouri State.
Powell was named OVC Co-Specialist of the Week while Miller was named OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week.
Another highlight through the first three games has been the efforts of junior linebacker Chavez Sims.
The Mize, Miss., native transferred from Jones County Junior College last season, but missed most of fall practice to be home after the death of his mother.
Despite the missed practice time, Sims has become a key factor on the improved Racer defense, amassing 20 tackles while racking up five sacks.
The Racers now return to the Football Bowl Subdivision level with a 2-1 record as they face Bowling Green on the road tomorrow. Murray State began its season against an Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, losing 58-14 to Missouri.
The Falcons kicked off their season with wins over Tulsa and Kent State, but fell to 2-1 last week after a 42-10 loss at Indiana.
“We’re more focused on us,” Hatcher said. “I’ll be honest with you, I think Bowling Green is as good or better than Missouri, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Falcons rely heavily on their rushing attack, averaging 196 yards on the ground their first three games.
Sophomore running back Travis Greene leads the charge, averaging 92 rushing yards per game.
It’s not the rushing attack that worries Hatcher the most.
“The thing that stands out the best about Bowling Green to me is their special teams,” Hatcher said. “They play hard on the special teams. They may be the best special teams unit I’ve ever faced as a head coach.”
The stakes are raised next week as the Racers begin OVC play with a trip to Jacksonville State.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff Writer