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Coach finalizes football staff for 2015

Elizabeth Leggett March 5, 2015 Athletics, Football

Head Coach Mitch Stewart has completed his staff for the 2015 season of Racer football according to GoRacers.com.

Among the staff additions are Brandon Cooper who will serve as the linebackers and special teams coach and Eddie Hicks as the cornerbacks coach. Returning to the team will be Sean Dawkins at running backs.

Mitch Stewart

Mitch Stewart

Before entering the Racers team on the defensive staff, Cooper gained seven years experience on the collegiate level. Previously Cooper has worked on staff with University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Jacksonville State and UT Martin.

Another new addition, Hicks begins his first season at Murray State from the University of California at Berkeley. Prior to that he a part of the California Hicks where he served on the defensive team for the University of Cincinnati. The breakthrough in his career began with Alcorn State in 2012.

Finally, returning to the staff is Dawkins who spent a season at Chattanooga after spending four seasons with the racers. He came to Murray State in 2009 after spending his previous season at Huntingdon College which was his predecessor to West Texas A&M.

NEW COACH, NEW TEAM

Elizabeth Leggett February 6, 2015 Athletics, Football

STEWART ANNOUNCES FIRST SIGNING CLASS, INCLUDES 11 LINEMEN

MORGAN ALEXANDER

Jenny Rohl/The News Head Coach Mitch Stewart embraces his wife at a signing day meet-and-greet Feb. 4 at the Racer Room in Roy Stewart Stadium.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Head Coach Mitch Stewart embraces his wife at a signing day meet-and-greet Feb. 4 at the Racer Room in Roy Stewart Stadium.

Nickel 6’2” 215 lbs. from Paducah, Ky.

NOAH BANKS

O-Line 6’6” 310 lbs. from Pensacola, Fla.

CHASE BOLING

Linebacker 6’2” 235 lbs. from Lexington, Ky.

MATTHEW CHRISTIAN

Quarterback 6’3” 205 lbs. from Opelika, Ala.

BRAXTON COUCH

Safety 5’11” 180 lbs. from Lexington, Ky.

WES DREWERY

Long snapper 6’3” 230 lbs. from Franklin, Tenn.

JENSEN FEGGINS

WR 6’2” 200 lbs. from Bowling Green, Ky.

COLIN FRICKEY

DE 6’3” 240 lbs. from Clearwater, Kan.

BEN LUPER

O-Line 6’5” 280 lbs. from Springfield, Mo.

GRIFFIN MARTIN

DE 6’2” 250 lbs. from Elba, Ala.

RHETT MORRISON

P/K 6’3” 190 lbs. from Muscle Shoals, Ala.

BRANT NEWMAN

O-Line 6’2” 286 lbs. from Germantown, Tenn.

JAKE O’MARA

Quarterback 6’4” 215 lbs. from Maysville, Ky.

TOBY OMLI

Safety 6’0” 200 lbs. from Brookeville, Kan.

SILAS OWENS

DE 6’4” 240 lbs. from New Market, Ala.

ZEKE PIKE

Quarterback 6’6” 250 lbs. from Edgewood, Ky.

ORRIN RAGLAND

WR 6’1” 186 lbs. from Gadsden, Ala.

DREW RUTLAND

Tight end 6’5” 215 lbs. from Memphis, Tenn.

MARQUEZ SANFORD

Corner 5’11” 170 lbs. from Macon, Ga.

KWAN STALLWORTH

O-Line 6’4” 295 lbs. from Lithonia, Ga.

AJ TAYLOR

DE 6’2” 260 lbs. from Chicago, Ill.

COLLIN TRAVIS

DE 6’5” 230 lbs. from Benton, Ky.

RYAN TYLER

Linebacker 6’3” 215 lbs. from Indianapolis, Ind.

DRAKE VANHOOSER

DE 6’0” 245 lbs. from Princeton, Ky.

CHRIS WHITE

O-Line 6’3” 310 lbs. from Daphne, Ala.

Hatcher to leave football program, replaced by Stewart

Mary Bradley December 10, 2014 Athletics, Breaking News, Football, Slider Featured stories

Kalli Bubb/The News Head Coach Chris Hatcher talks to his team during practice Monday at Roy Stewart Stadium.

After five seasons with Racer Football, Head Coach Chris Hatcher is leaving the program but will be replaced by Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Mitch Stewart.

Hatcher will be officially introduced as new head coach of Samford University at 11 a.m. Friday during a press conference, approximately one week after Samford head coach Pat Sullivan resigned due to his health.

The position has been offered to and accepted by Hatcher.

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland said Hatcher is a perfect fit for the University and football program, according to an interview with Samford’s official athletics website.

“Coach Hatcher possesses the characteristics necessary for success as the leader of our football program,” he said.  “Underlying his strengths as a great motivator and tactician, he is a person of unshakable character.  Fundamentally, he sees himself as a teacher.  He is an ideal fit for Samford.”

Hatcher told samfordsports.com that he is looking forward to following Sullivan’s footsteps and said that he can’t wait to get started.

“It is a true honor to follow Coach Sullivan and have the opportunity to lead the Samford football program into its next chapter,” Hatcher said. “Put simply, Coach Sullivan is a legend.  They say you never want to be ‘the man that follows the man.’  Well I do.”

Murray State Athletics announced as of Wednesday that Hatcher will be replaced by Stewart, who has received high praise from President Bob Davies.

“Over the past six months, I have had the opportunity to meet, talk and observe the work of Coach Stewart,” Davies said in an interview with Goracers.com.  “My initial impressions were that he is an impressive, young coach who I hope we will be able to hang onto.”

Stewart has worked with the Racers for five years, coached two All-Americans and his offense ranked 15th in the nation with 5,625 yards of total offense and 439 points, according to Goracers.com. Hatcher and Stewart have worked together previously at Georgia Southern and have both been quarterbacks at Valdosta State.

Report of Hatcher’s move to Samford first surfaced on footballscoop.com and was confirmed by FOX-6 in Alabama.

Hatcher was hired by Murray State in 2010 and has a record with the Racers of 27-30. The Racers tied for last place with Austin Peay State in the Ohio Valley Conference this year with a record in OVC of 1-7.

Samford is located in Birmingham, Ala.

Story by Mary Bradley, Editor-in-Chief

Intramural flag football finals: Springer-Franklin A wins

Elizabeth Leggett December 5, 2014 Athletics, Intramurals
Haley Hays/The News Hart Ravens’ player Amber Timmerman runs the ball against Springer-Franklin A Tuesday night.

Haley Hays/The News
Hart Ravens’ player Amber Timmerman runs the ball against Springer-Franklin A Tuesday night.

Fans and players alike covered the intramural fields Tuesday night as Hart College took on Franklin in the women’s intramural  flag football championship game.

Hart Ravens lost to Springer-Franklin A 31-6, a score that was not indicative of the battle on the field.

Hart had just come off the field after defeating Granny Panties and hoped to do the same against Franklin.

Franklin was fresh off the field as well after just facing the Monstars in a heated double overtime game.

The fans were just as excited as the players. Freshman Christopher Cash, Hart resident from Memphis, Tenn., stood out among many. Cash played the role of both cheerleader and ball boy Tuesday night, yelling, cheering and doing toe-touches on the sidelines.

“They are not ready for us!” Cash said. “Turn on the jets! Go Hart!”

This was just one of the many colorful phrases yelled during the game.Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 12.52.12 PM

Jonathon Rogers, Hart Ravens assistant athletic director, was excited to see the women play also.

“I come to all the games and practices. I’m just here to support my Hart family,” Rogers said.

Hart held Springer-Franklin A for most of the first half. Springer-Franklin A athletic director Rya Smelosky, sophomore from Louisville, Ky., scored with two minutes left.

During halftime Hart’s athletic director Tori Twidwell gave her players a speech.

“Play your game, the game you all know how to play,” Twidwell said. “There is only so much coaching we can do from the sidelines.”

Franklin carried their first-half momentum as they returned to the field.

Smelosky ended the night by gathering the women to take a picture in their matching championship T-shirts.

Story by Da’Sha Tuck, Contributing writer

Rugby provides sport alternative

Elizabeth Leggett November 21, 2014 Athletics
Fumi Nakamura/The News Rugby player Travis Nelson competes against alumni last season.

Fumi Nakamura/The News
Rugby player Travis Nelson competes against alumni last season.

The Murray State Rugby Football Club provides an alternative for athletes to satisfy their need for competition in place of college athletics.

Rugby football, referred to simply as rugby is a sport with a long history. It was allegedly invented in 1823 by Englishman William Webb Ellis who found the rules of soccer too restricting. Legend has it Ellis picked up the ball during a soccer match and ran with it, forcing the opposing team to tackle him.

Though this story is most likely fictitious, it is widely accepted, as the International Rugby Board, as named the World Cup trophy the William Webb Ellis Cup.

It took 51 years for rugby to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

American ingenuity quickly took hold, and rugby gave birth to American football. Rugby is still played by many in the U.S. and Murray State’s Rugby Football Club continues that tradition by providing students on campus with an alternative form of football or soccer.

Rugby and American football are known to many as the most dangerous and physically demanding sports.

For Connor Dec, junior from Chicago, these qualities are what attracted him to rugby. Dec came from a high school sports career that included American football and wrestling. Though his focus in college became the pursuit of his exercise science degree, he needed to find a way to fulfill his competitive spirit.

“I wanted to compete in something when I came to Murray,” Dec said. “My preference was obviously a contact sport and rugby fit perfectly. I knew a few guys who played and I asked if they were still taking people for the team. Turns out they are always looking to get more people involved.”

The team hosts an alumni match once a year, where alumni can face off against the current crop of players. This match attracts alumni who attended Murray State as far back as the 1970s. 

The Rugby Football Club has found alternative ways to make their presence known on campus.

Its most coveted tradition is the rugby dress match, where another Kentucky team is invited  to Murray to raise money and play a full contact rugby match of 80 minutes in dresses without pads or helmets.

Caleb Nelson, senior from Niceville, Fla., said he was lucky enough to attend a high school that had its own established rugby club. He said rugby has had a positive influence on his life, whether it be physical fitness or life lessons.

“In a very simplistic way, it has taught me to pick myself up after every fall,” Nelson said. “It helped me realize you can always pick yourself up and bounce back. More importantly, it taught me a great deal about friendship. It taught me the opposing team isn’t always the enemy. One of my favorite things about rugby is the camaraderie between teams.”

Nelson said he became attached to the sport in high school and that if students are willing to get past the stereotype of rugby being an overly dangerous sport, the same will happen to them.

“I would argue that rugby is actually the safer contact sport you can play,” Nelson said. “The rules of rugby prevent head on head collisions and there are serious penalties for dangerous tackles and unsafe play. We don’t wear pads and there is danger, but the referees are there to make sure everyone plays it safe. Rugby is challenging, not crazy.”

Story by Alex McLaughlin, Staff writer

Racers fall near end of season

Elizabeth Leggett November 21, 2014 Athletics, Football
Kalli Bubb/The News Junior wide receiver Jeremy Harness runs the ball against UT Martin Nov. 1.

Kalli Bubb/The News
Junior wide receiver Jeremy Harness runs the ball against UT Martin Nov. 1.

Despite a strong showing on both the offensive and defensive fronts, the timing wasn’t there for the football team as it fell 43-36 to Eastern Kentucky Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Ky.

The team started well offensively as junior runningback Pokey Harris returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, the second straight week he racked up a full 100-yard kickoff return. Harris is the third player in conference history with two 100-yard kickoff returns, the second player to have two in the same season and the only player to complete the feat in back-to-back games.

“Pokey’s done a good job,” said Head Coach Chris Hatcher. “But all in all, I think all of our special teams. … Pokey’s just had two really good returns in back-to-back games. Once he gets an open field, he’s very fast. Fastest guy on our team. I’m real pleased with his performance, but those other guys have really taken a lot of pride in trying to spring him loose.”

The Colonels returned the favor with just over five minutes left in the first quarter as they added a two-yard rushing touchdown to the board. Junior kicker Carson Greifenkamp hit a 25-yard field goal to put the Racers back on top before the start of the second quarter.

The Racers continued to add to the score and ended the first half with a 20-point lead.

Still, Hatcher believed his team didn’t fully capitalize on a fourth-down conversion and opportunities that could have given his team a 35-point lead.

A successful first half couldn’t counteract fatal mistakes in the last minutes of the game, however, as redshirt sophomore quarterback K.D. Humphries threw an interception.

“You’ve got a redshirt sophomore quarterback back there that’s been playing really well,” Hatcher said. “He just made a bad throw at the end of the game. He threw a bunch of good ones, and then makes a bad throw at the end of the game.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s home game against Tennessee State, Hatcher anticipates a physical mismatch.

“Athletically, I would put them at the top of the league, year in and year out, since I’ve been here,” Hatcher said. “It’s going to be a tough game. I mean, it always is. We’re beat up; I’m sure they’re beat up.”

Tennessee State (5-6) is coming off a bye week after beating Austin Peay State 31-27 Nov. 8. Hatcher expects to see lots of size on the line for the Tigers and physical players on both sides of the ball. He said their offense will work to pound the ball and run play action passes past the Racers, which he hopes to limit by staying strong in the trenches. Offensively, they’ll be working to keep the ball on the perimeter.

The last game of the season will be no different than any others as the team pulls out all the stops.

“I think we’ll play well this week,” Hatcher said. “I thought we would play well last week, and we did. It wasn’t good enough to win, but we played probably the best we’d played in a while.”

Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor

Football stopped at EIU

Elizabeth Leggett November 14, 2014 Athletics, Football
Kalli Bubb/The News The Racers line up to take on the UT Martin Skyhawks Nov. 1 at Roy Stewart Stadium.

Kalli Bubb/The News
The Racers line up to take on the UT Martin Skyhawks Nov. 1 at Roy Stewart Stadium.

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 TuckerSports Editor

Racers fall to UT Martin Skyhawks

Elizabeth Leggett November 7, 2014 Athletics, Football
Kalli Bubb /The News Sophomore linebacker Jonathan Jackson tackles a UT Martin Skyhawks player.

Kalli Bubb /The News
Sophomore linebacker Jonathan Jackson tackles a UT Martin Skyhawks player.

The Racers’ game was off from the start Saturday at Roy Stewart Stadium as they fell to the UT Martin Skyhawks 62-38.

In opening drive, redshirt freshman punter Zach Bogard’s 20-yard punt put the Skyhawks in scoring position and they took an early 7-0 lead within two plays. Despite multiple unfortunate plays by the Racers, they never gave up.

“So far the season hasn’t turned out the way we all had hoped it would turn out,” said Head Coach Chris Hatcher. “We got physically beat up pretty good against UT Martin on Saturday. We couldn’t stop the run, which means you can’t stop the pass. We didn’t force them to punt, and whenever you do that you’re not going to win the ball game. The positive is we did continue to fight. We didn’t quit.”

The next drive came to no more fruition than the first as redshirt sophomore quarterback K.D. Humphries’ pass was intercepted for an interception by UT Martin’s junior linebacker Nick Dance, increasing the Skyhawks’ lead to 14-0.

“We came out slow you know, the first drive,” Humphries said. ”The second drive, I was looking for Janawski here, and whoever that linebacker was, he just made a nice play. He made a great play on the ball.”

The Racers didn’t let the touchdowns affect their morale as they continued to make drives in an attempt to cut the score. Despite mistakes, the Racers put up impressive offensive stats, including Humphries’ second game of more than 400 passing yards and five touchdowns.

Kory Savage/The News Redshirt sophomore quarterback KD Humphries catches a snap from a fellow teammate during the UT Martin game Satuday.

Kory Savage/The News
Redshirt sophomore quarterback KD Humphries catches a snap from a fellow teammate during the UT Martin game Satuday.

“We let them get out early on us, but we didn’t let that get to us,” Humphries said. “We still were fighting, fighting, fighting. We just got to keep things rolling as an offense.”

Two receivers added to the offense’s impressive performance with their second 100-plus receiving yard games.

Junior wide receiver Janawski Davis led the Racers with seven catches for 133 total yards and a touchdown, while senior wide receiver Nevar Griffin nipped at his heels with 115 yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns. Junior runningback Pokey Harris totaled 114 all-purpose yards with 23 from rushing, 18 from receiving and 73 from kick returns.

Davis said the receiving core’s performance is based off the team’s attitude as a whole.

“It really goes off our team’s energy,” Davis said. “If the energy’s not up and not well you know we’re going to come out sluggish and then we’ll turn it on in the second half. But today we had good energy.  We just couldn’t connect as a whole.”

The Racers were looking to make a comeback in the fourth quarter before Humphries threw his second pick-6 of the game.

“I feel like we had some momentum,” Hatcher said. “Our sideline was excited. But (UT Martin) went down and scored and made it a 21 point game again. I think that that says a lot about the young guys on our football team that we never could get over the hump – we got in a big hole – and then all of a sudden we’re headed into the fourth quarter and we’ve got some momentum on our side and have a legitimate shot at coming back and at least having a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter. But we couldn’t do it.”

Kory Savage/The News Junior wide receiver Janawski Davis, catches the ball at the UT Martin game Saturday, Nov. 1.

Kory Savage/The News
Junior wide receiver Janawski Davis, catches the ball at the UT Martin game Saturday, Nov. 1.

Despite disappointment, Hatcher and his team are only looking forward.

“They just beat us at the point of attack,” Hatcher said. “Very disappointing. But we’ve got another game this week and we’ve got to find a way to put ourself in a position to play a little bit better than we did this past week.”

The Racers face Eastern Illinois (4-5) at O’Brien Field Saturday at noon. Hatcher attributes the Panthers’ record to a difficult early-season schedule similar to the Racers’.

The Panthers’ losses are accounted for by the University of Minnesota, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois State, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Ohio. According to Hatcher, Eastern Illinois is starting to find its rhythm.

“They’ve got on a roll,” Hatcher said. “I think they’ve kind of found their way on offense now. They run the quarterback a lot more than they did with the guy that they had last season. And they’re playing really good, and that’s a tough place to play. It’ll probably be cold, it’ll probably be windy. We’ve got to go up there and suit it up again and see what we can do.”

As the team prepares, it maintains the common goal of the season.

“We just want to win a game,” Hatcher said. “That’s the goal each week. We could really care less about how we affect the conference race and all that. We’ve got three games left to play. You can’t ever accomplish anything without having great enthusiasm.”

Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor

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