The Racers were not taken aback by their 66-21 loss to the Louisville Cardinals September 6.
With the Cardinals ranked No. 25 before jumping to their current spot at No. 21, Head Coach Chris Hatcher knew the Racers were facing a challenge.
“It is what it is,” Hatcher said. “We played a superior opponent that had us outmanned at certain positions. And a very good opponent at that. They took care of business like they should have.”
The players were just as mentally prepared as Hatcher was and they stressed the importance of not getting caught up in playing an upper-level opponent.
“We just went out there and played football,” redshirt sophomore K.D. Humphries said. We didn’t play Louisville, we just went out here and played football.”
Junior Janawski Davis said Louisville is a great team with obvious talent.
“It was something to look forward to – coming out and playing tonight,” he said. “They play like we play, they put their pants on like we put ours on, so I mean we just come out to play.”
After trading off three punts with the Racers to start the game, the Cardinals scored just three plays into their second possession of the game. After intercepting a pass by quarterback C.J. Bennett during the Racers’ next possession, the Cardinals scored again quickly.
Although Murray State was down by two touchdowns, Hatcher and his team weren’t ready to give up just yet. On a third down with 8 yards to go, the offense lined up in a polecat formation, throwing off the Cardinals’ defense and allowing Janawski Davis to receive Bennett’s pass and run the ball for a 57-yard touchdown.
“We kind of tricked them a little bit on the polecat formation, and caught them there early to cut the lead 14-7,” Hatcher said. “I think that just made them mad. We could have just shut it down right there, down fourteen to nothing, but we kept fighting. (Janawski) played good, I thought Harness played good, Jesse finally kind of broke out and had some good plays.”
After that play, Louisville picked up again and continued to dominate the Racers. However, Hatcher was pleased with Murray State’s effort with just a few minutes left to play.
An offensive drive ended on a missed fourth-down conversion, but the defense was able to hold Louisville to a field goal, ending the half down 45-7.
With the game out of hand, the Racers took the field during the third quarter with a new goal in mind, which Hatcher said they achieved with Humphries taking the field to replace Bennett.
“The second half, we held our own,” Hatcher said. “Offensively we got in a groove, I thought K.D. played well. I was proud of our effort, I was proud of the way we played there in the second half. Our goal at halftime was to win the second half. That was kind of our mantra coming out of the break. Our guys really balled into it.”
The Racers’ next touchdown of the game came from Humphries’ second possession of the game. A first-and-goal pass gave Davis his second touchdown of the night, adding more accolades to his touchdown punt return against Union College on August 28.
“It’s a pretty good season start, but I’m not the only one out here doing it,” Davis said. “I’ve got the help of my teammates.”
Humphries added another touchdown to the Racers’ score early in the last quarter with a 16-yard touchdown pass to junior Jeremy Harness. This cemented the final score of the game at 66-21.
Humphries’ performance in the second half has many Murray State fans curious as to the future of the quarterback spot.
“We evaluate each week,” Hatcher said. “I thought C.J. played well, it was a different type of game when K.D. came in. At that point, the game was out of hand and sometimes that calms the nerves a little bit more. But yeah, he got in a groove.”
Hatcher said whoever practices the best during the week gets the start in the next game. Hatcher noted that he was really pleased with Humphries’ performance, but that Bennett also had some quality plays.
With the goal of winning the second half in mind, Humphries and the team worked to put effort into every play.
“Coach just said go out there and give effort, keep giving effort every play,” senior linebacker Travis Taylor said. “And that’s what we did. We just need to fill some holes. We’ve got a lot of practice to do. We’re going to make up for it.”
A few injuries riddled the game, also somewhat expected as the Racers face a team much larger than their usual rivals. Sophomore runningback Roman Clay was helped off the field with a leg injury and senior linebacker Perry Cooper was also taken out early on with an injury to his hand.
“I don’t think anybody was seriously injured,” Hatcher said. “We’re beat up a little bit – like playing that brick wall back there in the back in our lines.”
The Racers have a bye this weekend as they prepare for their next game against Western Michigan, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be working just as hard as usual.
“We’re coming to practice next week like we’ve got a game on Saturday,” Davis said. “We’re going to come, take our break, get healed up, come back against Western Michigan, and we’re going to come hard.”
The Racers kick off at 6 p.m. in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Sept. 20.
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor