Head Coach Chris Hatcher said his team was plagued by problems Saturday as it fell 48-26 to the Eastern Illinois Panthers in Charleston, Ill.
“Plagued by an inability to hang onto the football,” Hatcher said. “Plagued by a couple costly penalties. And plagued by our inability to stop the run.”
The Panthers came out on top from the start as they took an early three-touchdown lead. On the opening drive, Eastern Illinois moved the ball 75 yards downfield in less than two and a half minutes.
Things looked hopeful for the Racers as they took over on offense and carried the ball to the three-yard line before a fumble that was recovered by Eastern Illinois. The Panthers moved the ball 97 yards to score again on their second possession of the game.
Hatcher attributes much of the loss to inconsistency.
“We got the ball coming out of the gates and really couldn’t do anything with it,” Hatcher said. “We were very inconsistent on offense. We had a bunch of yards, we moved the ball well, we didn’t finish drives, we had three costly turnovers, especially on the first drive of the game, but we did get a few stops. We didn’t take advantage of the stops when we got them.”
Now that the Racers are done with the 5-1 OVC Panthers, the team is focused on a similarly difficult opponent on the road.
“It wasn’t like we went up there and got stomped by a bad football team, we got stomped by one of the best in the league,” Hatcher said. “We got beat by a good team. We didn’t play well. When you combine those things, makes for a long day. This week, we look forward to seeing much of the same from your opponent in attacking style, defense that’s going to try to put pressure on us.”
The Racers kick off against Eastern Kentucky at 1 p.m. EST Saturday in Richmond, Ky., for their last away game of the season.
The Racers defeated the Colonels last season at home for the first time since 2004. The 2004 season is also the last time Murray State beat Eastern Illinois on the road.
Despite two consecutive losses, Hatcher said the team hasn’t given up.
“Right now with our football team, they’re in really good spirits,” Hatcher said. “They continue to play hard, they continue to do everything that we ask them to do. But with us not being able to stop the run, it puts a lot of pressure on that offense, because you have to play perfect on that side of the ball to give us a chance to win. So we’re getting back to the drawing board this week.”
University of Cincinnati transfer quarterback Bennie Coney has led Eastern Kentucky to success thus far this season. The Colonels are ranked 15th in the nation with an 8-2 overall record and a 5-2 conference record, with losses to Tennessee Tech and No. 4 Jacksonville State.
According to Hatcher, the Racers will return a few injured defensive players Saturday in hopes of making the necessary stops.
Junior defensive tackle Demetrius Mason, freshman defensive lineman Bishop Woods and senior defensive linebacker Perry Cooper’s injuries all looked optimistic as of Monday.
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor