Racers rain on Panthers’ parade

Chalice Keith/The News

 

Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor

If you were one of the Racer football faithful in attendance for Thursday’s season-opener, you likely left the game soaking wet. One thing that wasn’t rained on, however, was the Racers’ parade.

The Racers claimed a commanding 67-7 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan College in their first game of the season at Roy Stewart Stadium. Although the Racers faced myriad questions coming into the game following the recent roster adjustments at the quarterback and running back positions, they rallied in a big way to defeat the Panthers in a game that was essentially out of hand from the go.

Freshman running back D.J. Penick struck first for the Racers five minutes into the first quarter, catching a 3-yard pass from junior quarterback Shuler Bentley to record each player’s first touchdowns in a Racer uniform.

A 2-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Gandy and a 60-yard pick-six by senior defensive back Dylan Boone was enough to cap off an assertive first quarter performance by the Racers that ended 22-0.

The second quarter was highlighted by a 52-yard pass to Gandy by freshman quarterback Corey Newble off of a flip by Bentley. The succeeding quarters spelled out much of the same, with Gandy going on to record one more touchdown to bring his game total to three as well as 90 total receiving yards. Demetric Johnson was a heavy target for Bentley, inevitably finishing with 80 yards and a touchdown.

Murray State made its mark on the ground as well, as freshman running backs Nick Collins, Junior Nolan Nichols and Penick combined for 211 rushing yards. The Racers finished with a total of 243 rushing yards and 214 receiving yards. Thursday’s win was the first time the Racers run game has outweighed their passing game since 2014, which coincidentally came against Kentucky Wesleyan. Penick said having offensive weapons at the team’s disposal is a luxury.

“You can switch any of us in at any point in the game and you’ll still get the same contribution from any of us,” Penick said. “We’re all right there. It’s great having three different running backs that you can just put in at any time and you’ll get seven or eight yards a carry.”

Head Coach Mitch Stewart said his team answered a lot of questions regarding his team’s running game in Thursday night’s win.

“That’s what we wanted to see,” Stewart said. “We wanted to see how those guys would react. Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about our running back situation, so it was good to give those guys some carries.”

Stewart has touted the composure of his quarterback in the past, and he delivered Thursday night. In Bentley’s first game as the captain of the Racer offense, he finished with 162 yards and four touchdowns. Despite throwing one interception on the night, Stewart was still impressed with Bentley’s ability in the pocket.

“Really happy with the way they protected the ball,” Stewart said. “We have five truths to winning a football game, and the first one was to win the turnover battle. We did that, we got four takeaways on defense, which is phenomenal. In a game like that, to only have one turnover and for that turnover to be on an interception and not a fumble, I’m over the moon with that.”

On the other side of the ball, it was newcomer to the program, junior Kenney Wooten, who was able to get to the quarterback all night and recorded three sacks in the game. Wooten said getting a chance to compete against an opponent other than a practice squad was a appeasing experience.

“In fall camp, in practice against your own teammates, you can’t hit the quarterback. So tonight was a stress reliever for me to get after the quarterback,” Wooten said.

The Racers will hope they can continue their hot start when they take the field at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9 against the University of Central Arkansas.