Football strikes early, stumbles late v. Jacksonville State

Story by Bryan Edwards, contributing writer

On a three-game winning streak, the Murray State football team was matched up with the No. 2 Gamecocks of Jacksonville State Saturday at Roy Stewart Stadium.

The Racer defense was up to the task early, but wasn’t enough as the Gamecocks would go on to win the contest 33-15.

The first quarter went scoreless, as both teams’ defenses took turns stopping the opposing offenses. The Racers were the first team to strike with a Connor Mitchell 45-yard field goal to take the lead 3-0. Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins connected with wide receiver Jamari Hester for a 23-yard touchdown with just seconds remaining in the half. The Racers would kneel to end the half, trailing 7-3.

The Gamecocks entered the game leading the OVC in rushing with 246 rushing yards per game, but going into halftime the Racers held the Gamecocks to just four yards rushing on 11 attempts.

The Racer offense struggled against the strong Jacksonville State defense, going into the half with only 98 yards of total offense.

The score remained 7-3 until Jacksonville State running back Roc Thomas found the end zone on a seven-yard run with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter, and the Gamecocks took a 13-3 lead after a missed field goal?.

Jacksonville State got its run game going in the fourth, running for 195 of the team’s 274 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the final period.

Murray State added two passing touchdowns near the end of the game, but it wasn’t enough as the Racers fell to the Gamecocks 33-15.

Head coach Mitch Stewart said the team fought hard, but the Gamecocks were just too much for the Racers.

“I was very pleased with our defensive play going into halftime, and how hard we fought going into the half,” Stewart said. “As the game went on we were outgunned and outmanned at many positions, we got a little bullied while we were on offense throughout the game.”

The Racers were led by senior quarterback KD Humphries, who had 138 yards passing on 22-of-47 passing, two touchdowns and one interception. Humphries also put his name in the Murray State record books, passing former Racer quarterback and current wide receivers coach Casey Brockman for career passing yards, and his two-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Mitch Stults made Humphries the career passing touchdown record holder as well.

Senior wide receiver Jesse Blackburn said that he loved watching and playing with Humphries.

“It’s fun having a quarterback that is as competitive and good at what he does,” Blackburn said. “We’ve been together for a long time, and it’s nice to have a quarterback you have chemistry with and it’s been fun watching KD play and it has been a fun year with him.”

The loss puts the Racers at 4-6 on the season, and 4-3 in the OVC. The Racers take on the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Cookeville, Tennessee.