It may not have been a pretty game for most of the team, but senior Walter Powell shined like the star he has proven to be.
Powell led Murray State to a 35-24 win over Tennessee Tech to propel the Racers into a tie for first in the OVC.
The win gives Murray a 2-0 record for the first time since 1998, giving them a share of the lead with Tennessee State.
In an even bigger feat, Powell recorded three touchdowns to break the modern-day record for most career touchdowns by a Murray State player.
He now has 30 total touchdowns – only 6 games into the season. He is currently tied for the most receiving touchdowns with 26.
Powell said he was aware he was approaching the benchmark, but he was more focused on a team win than a personal record.
“I heard about it last week but I didn’t pay it no mind,” he said. “I was just trying to do what I had to do to give my team a victory.”
Head Coach Chris Hatcher said Powell scores when the team most needs it.
“We know what kind of player he is,” Hatcher said. “Unfortunately, we can’t get him the ball enough. He wills himself into the endzone.”
Hatcher said this was a game he had been worried about all week. Coming off a big win at Jacksonville State, he said he was not sure if his team had the right mentality.
The Racers were slow out of the starting gate, but a sluggish offense received assistance from Powell and the special teams unit when he returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown for the first score of the game.
“That first punt return (Powell) had, that was kind of the spark we needed,” Hatcher said.
While Powell stood out for Murray State, the defense was another crucial part of the victory.
The defense added a touchdown of its own at the start of the second half when senior Josh Manning scooped up a Tennessee Tech fumble and carried it 22 yards into the endzone.
“(The defense) put us in a position throughout the course of the evening to really score a lot of points,” Hatcher said. “They kept getting the ball back to the offense time and time again.”
The Racers have forced at least one turnover in every game thus far this season. The turnover differential has been the key in a few games already, and the win over the Golden Eagles was no different.
“We forced some big turnovers down the stretch,” Hatcher said. “Even though we didn’t capitalize on them offensively, we ate a lot of clock up.”
Hatcher is not the only one who enjoys the improved defense. Powell recognizes the change and welcomes it.
“I’m always excited on the sideline,” Powell said. “I already know they’re going to make some big plays. They came a long way from game one, and I can’t wait to see them get better and better each game.”
In addition to the fumble recovery, Manning also intercepted his second pass of the season Saturday. He said the defense seems to always be in the right place at the right time, something that was a problem last year.
The Racers now turn their sights to a Southeast Missouri team that has yet to record a win this season.
Murray State has won the last two matchups against the Redhawks. Last year, the special teams for the Racers helped earn the win as Powell returned a punt 100 yards for a touchdown and Duane Brady returned a kickoff 85 yards late in the fourth quarter to break the tie.
A win will mark the first 3-0 start in the OVC for the team since the 1997 season, when it finished 5-2 in the conference.
The Racers play at 1 p.m. Saturday in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Story by Ryan Richardson, Sports Editor