After a 45-14 loss to the Western Michigan Broncos Saturday at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich., the Racers look ahead to conference play, despite a slight bitter taste in their mouths.
“It’s kind of a hard feeling that we had after the ball game,” said Head Coach Chris Hatcher. “We all actually felt better after the Louisville defeat than we did the Western Michigan defeat, to a certain extent. I thought it was a game of missed opportunities on our part.”
Hatcher’s goal now is to work with his backup players and figure out what type of team he has on his hands.
According to Hatcher, his players dropped a few balls that they normally don’t drop, and he is looking to some of his second string players to step up and not get down on themselves.
Despite the hard work they’re putting in, the young Racer team simply lacks the depth they’ve seen in the last two FBS opponents.
“I don’t think you can ever underestimate the psyche of a football team,” Hatcher said. “Now, I haven’t figured out how to read the psyche of a team. If I did I wouldn’t be sitting here, I would be making a whole lot of money probably giving some seminar somewhere else.
“But you look at the way our team’s been; we felt good about Union, go to Louisville and then play Western Michigan, you know, I imagine there is a little doubt when you go play teams like that on the road. So now I think we’re excited – we get to play on our level.”
Hatcher believes Jacksonville State to be the best football team the Racers will face all season with the exception of Louisville.
He described the Gamecocks, who are ranked No. 8 in the FCS, as having it all, including a defensive line stacked with former SEC players and a standout runningback in junior DaMarcus James.
Despite a bye week, the Racers are still recovering from injuries suffered in their last two FBS games.
In addition to injuries to junior Demetrius Mason, senior Felton Collins, junior Jalen Harrington and sophomore Roman Clay, junior defensive back Shawn Samuels-Connell was injured during the opening play of the Western Michigan game. Hatcher described this as losing the quarterback of his secondary – the leader for his less experienced defensive backs.
“We’ve been playing this level that we’re getting ready to see,” Hatcher said. “I mean, for two weeks in a row. We just haven’t played light competition. I don’t know how we’re going to stack up to teams that are like us. I know we believe we can win every game that we have coming up. But we have to execute better.
“This year’s team’s different than last year’s team.”
Last year, the Racers defeated the Gamecocks 35-24 in overtime on a two-point conversion that ended a nine-game losing streak to Jacksonville State.
Another change for the Racers came as redshirt sophomore quarterback K.D. Humphries made his first collegiate start against Western Michigan Saturday.
According to Hatcher, Humphries will continue to start, permitting senior quarterback C.J. Bennett doesn’t outperform him at practice.
“I’ve said it all along, we had to know who we were headed into this game,” Hatcher said. “I think I know who we are, but you never know till you go up and play a team of your caliber, your level. It ought to be fun. We’re going to come out guns a blazing and be ready to go, I can assure you that.”
With fireworks to follow as a Family Weekend event, Hatcher and the team hope for a large turnout of support for what he calls “the Murray family’s team.”
The Racers return to the field Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff at Roy Stewart Stadium.
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor