Story by Mark McFarland, Staff writer
Murray State came out strong and avenged last year’s loss to Austin Peay State in Saturday’s homecoming game 34-18.
After the Govenors deferred possession to the second half the Racers were able to start the game with a momentum shifting 61-yard kickoff return that set the fast paced offense up for a great start. Running the ball was not an issue for the Racers as the first score of the game came on a one yard rush from redshirt junior quarterback from Montgomery, Alabama, KD Humphries got the offense rolling.
The defense for the Racers was strong all night as they only allowed six points in the first quarter while creating a turnover and blocking an extra point attempt to keep the Govenors from getting anything started. The Racers took full advantage of the turnover and fought their way into the end zone with a two yard run by running back Roman Clay, junior from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to give the Racers the 14 point lead. But with 20 seconds left in the quarter the Govenors scored off of a six yard run from Taye Davis to make it a 14-6 Racer lead at the end of the first quarter.
“We’ve had some trouble in the red zone the last couple weeks,” said wide receiver from Glendale, Arizona, Jesse Blackburn. “We wanted to have better success in the red zone. I feel like we got better at it, but we still have some things we need to clean up.”
The second quarter was much of the same story as the Racers had success in both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. Scoring 17 points off of runs from both Humphries and Clay, while adding a 23-yard field goal from redshirt junior kicker from Franklin, Tennessee, Connor Mitchell. While the defense continued to play strong getting another fumble and forcing an interception on their way to shutting out Austin Peay in the second quarter.
“I was the most pleased with our defensive effort,” said Head Coach Mitch Stewart. “They were tremendous tonight.”
Going into the second half with a 31-6 the Racers wanted to continue to up the pressure and take it to the Govenors. Stewart said that the offense came out a little flat in the second half, but the defense did a tremendous job keeping the lead for the Racers and being the foundation of the game.
Austin Peay finally started to break as Timar Mitchell was able to connect with Jared Beard for the 10-yard score, however they were not able to convert on the two point conversion, leaving them with six points on the drive. Murray State then added a 31-yard field goal to bring the score to 34-12 to end the third quarter.
“I want to give quick club to Connor Mitchell,” Stewart said. “He missed that one and he came back and responded well.”
Austin Peay came out looking to get back into the game during the fourth quarter as their defense blanked the Racers. The Govenors offense came out strong as they were able to run the ball with a little ease which created opportunities for the passing game to open up. The lone scoring play in the fourth quarter came with 10:36 left in the game as running back Kendall Morris scored his lone touchdown of the game, but the Govenors failed to convert on the two point conversion again. Morris was the one highlight for Austin Peay as he had 138 yards on 15 carries and just the one touchdown.
The Racers then got the ball back with around five minutes left to play and ran the ball helping Roman Clay become the first running back since 2013 to rush over 100 yards in two consecutive games. Clay finished with 123 yards on 23 carries with 2 rushing touchdowns.
The Racers earned their second win of the year and their first conference win as they improved to 2-4 (1-2) OVC.
“I think we earned it this week in practice by grinding it out and working hard,” said safety Tobi Omli, junior from Brookville, Kanasas. “It feels good to finally be on top.”
This week the Racers have a bye week, but Stewart wants to treat these next few days like a normal week of practice. Stewart also wants to be able to give the team some time off so they can go home and see their families this weekend, before they come back and get ready for their next game.
After the bye week the Racers will travel to University of Tennessee Martin on Saturday Oct. 24 for a conference game against the Skyhawks and will look towards using the homecoming game as momentum for the rest of the season.