The senior football players asserted their dominance on Senior Night as they combined for five touchdowns, a field goal and 3.5 sacks to beat the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers 52-6 Thursday night at Roy Stewart Stadium during the season opener.
“As older guys, we feel like we’re the leaders of this team,” Harness said. “We’ve got to help try to show the younger guys the way. For us to come out and put on a show like we did, I feel like that lets the younger guys think ‘Hey, we can do this too.’ What makes them different than us? There is no difference. Hopefully we can put a little bit of confidence in them so they can come out and do the same thing.”
First year Head Coach Mitch Stewart took the first win in his new role in stride – water cooler shower and all – thankful to Racer Nation for all the support he’s received.
“I’m super grateful, to be honest with you,” Stewart said. “Super grateful for the work that the staff has put in up to this point, super grateful for the work the kids have put in up to this point. I’m also really grateful for Racer Nation. We had a good crowd out there tonight. Just the experience for our kids was awesome.”
Just two plays and 23 seconds into the first game of the season, the Racers were off to a strong start with a pass from redshirt junior quarterback KD Humphries to senior receiver Paul Rice that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown. Senior kicker Carson Greifenkamp made the extra point and Murray State took an early 7-0 lead.
It was four up and four down for the Panthers as the defensive line showed vast improvement from last year’s 3-9 season.
“This defensive line is strong,” senior Zach Dean said, who tallied two of the Racers’ four sacks. “We’ve been working all summer, all camp. We’ve been getting bigger, stronger. And when we added Elijah (Daniel) to the defensive line, it just made it that much better.”
Kentucky Wesleyan’s Eman Westmoreland punted 65 yards to Murray State’s 11-yard line as senior Shawn Samuels-Connell, receiving punt returns in lieu of senior Janawski Davis, who was benched for the home opener for violation of team rules, failed to gain yards on the play. The Racers maintained possession for the majority of the quarter before scoring their second touchdown with 2:44 left as Humphries connected with senior receiver Jeremy Harness for their first touchdown of the game. The duo connected two more times before the clock timed out at the end of the night.
“It’s just about whatever the offense needs, I’m willing to do,” Harness said. “I remember numerous times this summer I’m at the house asleep, KD calls me at 5:30 in the morning. ‘Hey, what you doing? Let’s go outside. Let’s throw the football.’ Him being the quarterback, it comes with the job. Me and him have been in sync like that since the summer.”
Stewart reiterated Harness’s sentiment, saying they were the type of guys he has to tell to go inside and quit practicing.
The Racers started the second quarter with a 21-yard field goal by Greifenkamp before tacking two more touchdowns on the board. Four minutes into the quarter, sophomore Nick Taylor tallied the Racers’ first rushing touchdown of the season before Humphries connected with Harness once again.
The play-making partners of Humphries and Harness kicked off the third quarters’ scoring efforts with yet another passing touchdown five minutes in. Senior Pokey Harris solidified the score at 45-0 with a 72-yard touchdown, shaking off three tackles on his route downfield.
The Panthers’ Travion Tucker put the first and only points on the board with a 76-yard passing touchdown. Kentucky Wesleyan missed the PAT and kicked away from Murray State’s receivers. Senior Joey Cicoria received the ball to end the third quarter as Humphries took to the bench to rest and redshirt freshman Houston Hartz saw the first minutes of his college quarterback career. Junior Roman Clay added a touchdown with just under seven minutes left in the game to widen the gap to 52-6.
The Panthers’ Fred Coleman ran three yards for their second touchdown of the game before failing on a 2-point conversion attempt. The clock wound down as the Racers celebrated the first win of a fresh season 52-12.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not a big stat guy,” Stewart said. “Other than the one that matters the most – and that’s the W or the L. And right now we’re sitting on the W. For the most part, that’s all I care about tonight.”
Story by Mallory Tucker