The Racers’ game was off from the start Saturday at Roy Stewart Stadium as they fell to the UT Martin Skyhawks 62-38.
In opening drive, redshirt freshman punter Zach Bogard’s 20-yard punt put the Skyhawks in scoring position and they took an early 7-0 lead within two plays. Despite multiple unfortunate plays by the Racers, they never gave up.
“So far the season hasn’t turned out the way we all had hoped it would turn out,” said Head Coach Chris Hatcher. “We got physically beat up pretty good against UT Martin on Saturday. We couldn’t stop the run, which means you can’t stop the pass. We didn’t force them to punt, and whenever you do that you’re not going to win the ball game. The positive is we did continue to fight. We didn’t quit.”
The next drive came to no more fruition than the first as redshirt sophomore quarterback K.D. Humphries’ pass was intercepted for an interception by UT Martin’s junior linebacker Nick Dance, increasing the Skyhawks’ lead to 14-0.
“We came out slow you know, the first drive,” Humphries said. ”The second drive, I was looking for Janawski here, and whoever that linebacker was, he just made a nice play. He made a great play on the ball.”
The Racers didn’t let the touchdowns affect their morale as they continued to make drives in an attempt to cut the score. Despite mistakes, the Racers put up impressive offensive stats, including Humphries’ second game of more than 400 passing yards and five touchdowns.
“We let them get out early on us, but we didn’t let that get to us,” Humphries said. “We still were fighting, fighting, fighting. We just got to keep things rolling as an offense.”
Two receivers added to the offense’s impressive performance with their second 100-plus receiving yard games.
Junior wide receiver Janawski Davis led the Racers with seven catches for 133 total yards and a touchdown, while senior wide receiver Nevar Griffin nipped at his heels with 115 yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns. Junior runningback Pokey Harris totaled 114 all-purpose yards with 23 from rushing, 18 from receiving and 73 from kick returns.
Davis said the receiving core’s performance is based off the team’s attitude as a whole.
“It really goes off our team’s energy,” Davis said. “If the energy’s not up and not well you know we’re going to come out sluggish and then we’ll turn it on in the second half. But today we had good energy. We just couldn’t connect as a whole.”
The Racers were looking to make a comeback in the fourth quarter before Humphries threw his second pick-6 of the game.
“I feel like we had some momentum,” Hatcher said. “Our sideline was excited. But (UT Martin) went down and scored and made it a 21 point game again. I think that that says a lot about the young guys on our football team that we never could get over the hump – we got in a big hole – and then all of a sudden we’re headed into the fourth quarter and we’ve got some momentum on our side and have a legitimate shot at coming back and at least having a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter. But we couldn’t do it.”
Despite disappointment, Hatcher and his team are only looking forward.
“They just beat us at the point of attack,” Hatcher said. “Very disappointing. But we’ve got another game this week and we’ve got to find a way to put ourself in a position to play a little bit better than we did this past week.”
The Racers face Eastern Illinois (4-5) at O’Brien Field Saturday at noon. Hatcher attributes the Panthers’ record to a difficult early-season schedule similar to the Racers’.
The Panthers’ losses are accounted for by the University of Minnesota, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois State, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Ohio. According to Hatcher, Eastern Illinois is starting to find its rhythm.
“They’ve got on a roll,” Hatcher said. “I think they’ve kind of found their way on offense now. They run the quarterback a lot more than they did with the guy that they had last season. And they’re playing really good, and that’s a tough place to play. It’ll probably be cold, it’ll probably be windy. We’ve got to go up there and suit it up again and see what we can do.”
As the team prepares, it maintains the common goal of the season.
“We just want to win a game,” Hatcher said. “That’s the goal each week. We could really care less about how we affect the conference race and all that. We’ve got three games left to play. You can’t ever accomplish anything without having great enthusiasm.”
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor