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Nixed out of NCAA tournament seed

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.

Staff-op-3-27-15

Katie Wilborn/The News

(WITH VIDEO) –  After watching the Racers win 25 games in a row, we thought we had a strong chance to get a bid into the NCAA Tournament. Losing to Belmont in the final round of the OVC Tournament by one point didn’t dilute the idea that we deserved a spot, regardless of the seed.

To the surprise of fans, rivals and analysts, Murray State was denied an invitation to The Big Dance. There is more to our case than rooting for our University’s team. By the record, the talent and the criteria, Murray State deserved to be in The Big Dance.

Teams make it to the tournament by winning games. Murray State remained undefeated from Nov. 30 to March 7. Analysts have continually used our schedule as a demerit against us, but winning that many games in a row is difficult, no matter what conference we’re in. … Continue Reading

Prohm takes 100th victory, win streak extends to 23

February 26, 2015 Athletics
Haley Hays/The News

Haley Hays/The News

Fans were stacked to the aisle in the CFSB Center as the Racers prepared to play at home for the last time this season. The pre-game festivities celebrated the four seniors, Jarvis Williams, Jonathan Fairell and T.J. Sapp, but all eyes were on Head Coach Steve Prohm as he took his 100th program win. A 65-57 victory over Eastern Illinois University made Prohm the fastest coach in Racer history to claim 100 wins and take home his 23rd consecutive win this season. This 23-game win streak, in addition to being the second-longest in the nation after No. 1 Kentucky, ties for the longest streak in OVC history, a record already held by the Racers from the 2011-12 season.

The normal starters, all three seniors plus sophomore point guard Cameron Payne and junior forward Jeffery Moss, took to the court and won the tip against the Panthers. Williams put the first points of the game on the board on a goaltending call against Eastern Illinois.

Sapp followed with a 3-pointer and Moss quickly followed with one of his own to increase the lead to 8-0 with 16:44 to play in the first half. Williams added a dunk to the board before being fouled on a second dunk attempt. He made both free throws and the Racers went up by 12 uncontested for the first five minutes of the game.

Fairell took the first personal foul for the Racers and Eastern Illinois’s junior guard Trae Anderson made both free throws, putting the Panthers’ first points of the game on the board.

Eastern Illinois’s Anderson, senior forward Josh Piper and junior forward Chris Olivier, who returned from an injury Feb. 14, led the Panther’s offense with 18 of the Panthers’ 21 points in the first half.

The Racers entered the locker room at the half leading Eastern Illinois 34-21.

The Panthers were chomping at the bit in the second half to cut the lead and challenge the Racers. They closed it to less than ten just three minutes in and maintained a close margin for most of the half. With 49 seconds to play, Fairell was subbed out with three personal fouls to his name. Less than 30 seconds elapsed before he was subbed back in for Williams to be honored for senior night. He was quickly subbed back out by junior forward Wayne Langston, acknowledging the crowd as he took in his last minutes on the floor of the CFSB Center. The crowd cheered “Thank you, seniors,” as the clock timed out and the Racers won 65-57.

The Racers are now just one game away from a perfect conference season. Facing the UT Martin Skyhawks Saturday at 6 p.m. in Martin, Tenn., the Racers have a chance to become the fourth team in OVC history to go undefeated in conference.

Racers claim OVC Championship title

November 24, 2014 Athletics, Uncategorized, Volleyball
Kory Savage/The News

Kory Savage/The News

For the first time since 2003, the Racer Volleyball team has claimed the OVC Championship tournament.

With the winning point, the team fell to the floor, some with tears and others jumping for the trophy. They simply could not find words to describe their feelings.

The next move in store for the Racers is the 2014 Division Volleyball Championship. There will be a live unveiling of the field for the championship at 7:30 p.m., Nov 30 on ESPNU. Until then, the Racers will not know what team they will play next or when. The championship game will take place Dec. 18 and 20 in Oklahoma City.

Jenny Rohl/The News

Jenny Rohl/The News

“We work so much trying to not think about the OVC Championship that it’s hard to think about it now that we’ve won,” Head Coach David Schwepker said. “It’s hard to say anything but we are just so excited and it’s well deserved.”

Along with their championship title, the Racers recognize three all-tournament team members, sophomore right side, Kristen Besselsen, junior setter, Sam Bedard and junior middle blocker Alyssa Lelm. Bedard was also named the MVP of the OVC tournament.

“I was not expecting that at all,” said Bedard. “I am speechless about it but it was definitely awesome.”

Schwepker said he has pushed her all season and sometimes she may not have like the pressure but she is a team player and has proven to be great.

The Racers are the only team to have swept their matches and only play three of the five sets in the tournament. Starting against the Bruins, the two teams played a typical back and forth set proving why both of them are ranked the top two teams.

Jenny Rohl/The News

Jenny Rohl/The News

According the GoRacers.com, Racer Arena was packed with 1,254 fans from all over. The teams tied 15 separate times, only putting themselves ahead of each other by no more than two points until they hit 21-21. The Racers then pushed through, taking the first set at 25-21. The second set started no different but ended similarly with the Racers 25-16 and also taking the third set 25-22.

“These girls kept fighting no matter what,” Schwepker said. “I know they were nervous and everyone could see they were doing things they don’t normally do. They settled down and worked hard. The last two years of hard work and determinations helped us get to this point.”

Schwepker avoided talking about the OVC Championship all season but with the title in hand he simply couldn’t ignore the victory.

“I don’t have words to describe what we’ve done,” Schwepker said. “We’re going to home and celebrate with family and do exactly what we’ve been doing all season—it’s just another game.”

Story by Kelsey RandolphAssistant Sports Editor

Shooting for greatness: Prohm lays out expectations for men’s basketball

November 5, 2014 Athletics, Basketball

(VIDEO) – With the men’s basketball team aiming for a deep run into the postseason next spring, Head Coach Steve Prohm breaks down the strengths and challenges for the Racers heading into the season.


You can find out more about the OVC’s preseason No. 1 Racers on Friday in The Murray State News’ basketball special session available on news racks across campus.

Video produced by Josiah Brand and Cameron Witte

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.25.43 PM

RACERS BEAT SEMO IN DOUBLE OVERTIME

Kalli Bubb/The News The Murray State defense collaborates to tackle a Southeast Missouri State ball-carrier during the Homecoming game Saturday at Roy Stewart Stadium.

Kalli Bubb/The News
The Murray State defense collaborates to tackle a Southeast Missouri State ball-carrier during the Homecoming game Saturday at Roy Stewart Stadium.

It was deja vu all over again as the Racers headed into double overtime against Southeast Missouri State Saturday.

Last season, the Racers faced off against the Redhawks at SEMO on a rainy Saturday, and finished in triple overtime. This year, the weather was no different. A few differences this year included a home field advantage, a new Redhawks head coach and the fact that SEMO was ranked 23rd in the nation.

“It definitely crossed my mind – last year when we lost against them in OT – so we definitely owed them one,” said senior wide receiver Nevar Griffin after the game. “It felt good to get this W in OT this time.”

Long before there was even an inkling thought of a double overtime finish, the Racers wasted no time taking an early lead. Quarterback K.D. Humphries connected with Griffin for a touchdown less than five minutes into the first quarter. This was the first of three touchdowns the duo would tack on the scoreboard during the game, a career-high for Griffin.

“Really, all our receivers, any given day, any of us can have a big game,” Griffin said. “We all work so hard. We have constant film study together with K.D. We all talk to him, so we all work on our chemistry together. It was just today, I was just able to get open and make plays for the team.”

Injuries on both sides caused two SEMO players and one Murray State player to be assisted off the field during the first quarter.

The second scoring play of the game came with less than two minutes to play in the quarter. SEMO’s Ryan McCrum kicked a 21-yard field goal, and the clock wound down with the Racers leading 7-3.

The Redhawks were the first on the board in the second quarter as quarterback Kyle Snyder found the hands of receiver Adrian Davis for a five-yard pass to put them above the Racers 10-7.

The Racers returned the favor less than a minute later when Humphries passed to receiver Janawski Davis for a 75-yard touchdown.

The Redhawks once again put three points on the board with a last minute field goal by McCrum. The half ended with the Racers up 14-13.

The Racers kept their pace going into the second half as Humphries and Griffin teamed up again to put a touchdown on the board less than a minute in, extending their lead to eight.

Redhawk quarterback Kyle Snyder rushed for a touchdown with just 2:07 left on the clock in the third quarter. Southeast Missouri’s two-point conversion tied the game at 21.

The Racers took the lead again shortly after off a five-yard pass from Humphries to DeQavius Walker with just 28 seconds left in the quarter.

The fourth quarter did not provide such an easy start for the Racers, and SEMO scored two uncontested touchdowns to take the lead 35-28. The Racers found their groove again as Humphries found Griffin once more with 46 seconds left on the clock. They chose to take the extra point to tie the game 35-35, and head into overtime at the end of four quarters.

The Redhawks won the coin toss and opted to start on defense. Kicker Carson Greifenkamp kicked a 20-yard field goal to put the Racers up 38-35 as SEMO took over on offense.

St. Pierre Anilus sacked Snyder on third down and the game appeared to be over, but Redhawk kicker Ryan McCrum forced play to continue as he hit a 52-yard field goal to tie the game.

In second overtime, the Racers took over on defense first. McCrum kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the Redhawks on top.

The Racers took over on offense and a pass from Humphries to Davis put them ahead to end the game 44-41 after two overtime periods.

“I don’t know at the end of the game whether I was relieved or excited, or a little bit of both, but I’m really proud of our football team,” said Head Coach Chris Hatcher. “Great game. Played the 23rd ranked team in the country; go toe-to-toe with them.”

Story by Mallory TuckerSports Editor

Racers face Louisville, fight to win second half

Kory Savage/The News Quarterback C.J. Bennett looks to pass over two University of Louisville players Sept. 6 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Kory Savage/The News
Quarterback C.J. Bennett looks to pass over two University of Louisville players Sept. 6 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

The Racers were not taken aback by their 66-21 loss to the Louisville Cardinals September 6.

With the Cardinals ranked No. 25 before jumping to their current spot at No. 21, Head Coach Chris Hatcher knew the Racers were facing a challenge.

“It is what it is,” Hatcher said. “We played a superior opponent that had us outmanned at certain positions. And a very good opponent at that. They took care of business like they should have.”

The players were just as mentally prepared as Hatcher was and they stressed the importance of not getting caught up in playing an upper-level opponent.

“We just went out there and played football,” redshirt sophomore K.D. Humphries said. We didn’t play Louisville, we just went out here and played football.”

Junior Janawski Davis said Louisville is a great team with obvious talent.

“It was something to look forward to – coming out and playing tonight,” he said. “They play like we play, they put their pants on like we put ours on, so I mean we just come out to play.”

After trading off three punts with the Racers to start the game, the Cardinals scored just three plays into their second possession of the game. After intercepting a pass by quarterback C.J. Bennett during the Racers’ next possession, the Cardinals scored again quickly.

Although Murray State was down by two touchdowns, Hatcher and his team weren’t ready to give up just yet. On a third down with 8 yards to go, the offense lined up in a polecat formation, throwing off the Cardinals’ defense and allowing Janawski Davis to receive Bennett’s pass and run the ball for a 57-yard touchdown.

“We kind of tricked them a little bit on the polecat formation, and caught them there early to cut the lead 14-7,” Hatcher said. “I think that just made them mad. We could have just shut it down right there, down fourteen to nothing, but we kept fighting. (Janawski) played good, I thought Harness played good, Jesse finally kind of broke out and had some good plays.”

After that play, Louisville picked up again and continued to dominate the Racers. However, Hatcher was pleased with Murray State’s effort with just a few minutes left to play.

An offensive drive ended on a missed fourth-down conversion, but the defense was able to hold Louisville to a field goal, ending the half down 45-7.

With the game out of hand, the Racers took the field during the third quarter with a new goal in mind, which Hatcher said they achieved with Humphries taking the field to replace Bennett.

Kory Savage/The News Redshirt freshman D’Montre Wade walks towards his team in between plays in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. An official attendance of 50,179 fans Sept. 6. filled the stadium with a sea of red.

Kory Savage/The News
Redshirt freshman D’Montre Wade walks towards his team in between plays in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. An official attendance of 50,179 fans Sept. 6. filled the stadium with a sea of red.

“The second half, we held our own,” Hatcher said. “Offensively we got in a groove, I thought K.D. played well. I was proud of our effort, I was proud of the way we played there in the second half. Our goal at halftime was to win the second half. That was kind of our mantra coming out of the break. Our guys really balled into it.”

The Racers’ next touchdown of the game came from Humphries’ second possession of the game. A first-and-goal pass gave Davis his second touchdown of the night, adding more accolades to his touchdown punt return against Union College on August 28.

“It’s a pretty good season start, but I’m not the only one out here doing it,” Davis said. “I’ve got the help of my teammates.”

Humphries added another touchdown to the Racers’ score early in the last quarter with a 16-yard touchdown pass to junior Jeremy Harness. This cemented the final score of the game at 66-21.

Humphries’ performance in the second half has many Murray State fans curious as to the future of the quarterback spot.

“We evaluate each week,” Hatcher said. “I thought C.J. played well, it was a different type of game when K.D. came in. At that point, the game was out of hand and sometimes that calms the nerves a little bit more. But yeah, he got in a groove.”

Hatcher said whoever practices the best during the week gets the start in the next game. Hatcher noted that he was really pleased with Humphries’ performance, but that Bennett also had some quality plays.

With the goal of winning the second half in mind, Humphries and the team worked to put effort into every play.

 

“Coach just said go out there and give effort, keep giving effort every play,” senior linebacker Travis Taylor said. “And that’s what we did. We just need to fill some holes. We’ve got a lot of practice to do. We’re going to make up for it.”

A few injuries riddled the game, also somewhat expected as the Racers face a team much larger than their usual rivals. Sophomore runningback Roman Clay was helped off the field with a leg injury and senior linebacker Perry Cooper was also taken out early on with an injury to his hand.

“I don’t think anybody was seriously injured,” Hatcher said. “We’re beat up a little bit – like playing that brick wall back there in the back in our lines.”

The Racers have a bye this weekend as they prepare for their next game against Western Michigan, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be working just as hard as usual.

“We’re coming to practice next week like we’ve got a game on Saturday,” Davis said. “We’re going to come, take our break, get healed up, come back against Western Michigan, and we’re going to come hard.”

The Racers kick off at 6 p.m. in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Sept. 20.

 

Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor

 

Captains show leadership, passion for game

August 29, 2014 Football
Fumi Nakamura/The News Four captains join the referees for the coin toss prior the the game Thursday night at Roy Stewart Stadium.

Fumi Nakamura/The News
Four captains join the referees for the coin toss prior the the game Thursday night at Roy Stewart Stadium.

Leadership is an important factor this season for a relatively young Racer team.

The team voted six captains, seniors C.J. Bennett, Drew Kelley, Perry Cooper, Anthony Hayes and juniors Jeremy Harness and Shawn Samuels-Connell, to lead it this year.

Defensive back Samuels-Connell from Bainbridge, Ga., tries to lead the team by example on and off the field.

“One of the really nice things about being the captain is that you get to set the tempo,” Samuels-Connell said. “I try to tell everybody, ‘Do what you gotta do and be there for the team.’”

As the team has prepared for the upcoming season, Samuels-Connell thinks it has really learned the playbook and is working well together. A lifelong football fan and player, he strives to stress the importance of responsibility to his teammates. His prediction for the upcoming season, if the Racers do what’s needed and rise to the occasion, they should have a close to undefeated season.

“I’ve been playing since the seventh grade; football means a lot to me,” Samuels-Connell said. “It’s made me responsible in life and has really made me a better man. Leadership is one of the most important components of a successful team.”

According to Samuels-Connell, not only do the Racers have to show up to practice, they need to go to school, get good grades and take care of everything off the field. When they show up to practice he said they should be on time and be ready to work.

Senior captain and linebacker Hayes agrees wholeheartedly with Samuels-Connell, that leading by example is something every good captain should do.

Hayes is one of the 13 seniors being honored for Senior Day during the season home opener.

The linebacker thrives under pressure-oriented situations.

Football has always been an important component of Hayes’ life. His big brother also played and inspired him to keep playing.

“I love how football really challenges you,” Hayes said. “The more times you get knocked down the more times you have to get back up. We want to play the best we can and win every game.”

Although game plans change and each opponent is different, Hayes said he likes to think of them as a faceless opponent. Every down the team plays should be the best they have played if they want to consistently win, he said.

Some challenges the Racers have been overcoming in practice have been dealing with adversity, Hayes said, and becoming a more unified team.

The increased humidity and heat over the last few weeks has also taken a toll on some of the players. The Racers’ coaching staff has been scheduling practices with great care and making sure the team is in tip-top shape for the home opener.

This season marks Hayes’ second year as captain. The linebacker has been eating, sleeping and breathing football all summer. Many of the players, including Hayes, stayed in Murray over the break for off-season workouts.

“When things get tough, the tough get going,” Hayes said. “The most important thing for a team to really be successful is to have great unity and cohesion. Don’t ever point the finger at other players. Rather play each play together and do what is necessary.”

Senior captain and linebacker Cooper recognizes what an honor it is to be nominated as a captain. He and his fellow captains recognize the responsibility and faith the coaching staff places upon the six captains.

Football legacy runs deep in the Cooper family. His grandfather coached for the Minnesota Vikings offensive line for nearly thirty years. In addition to his career at Murray State, Cooper played for the University of Las Vegas for three years.

“I’m very blessed by the opportunity I’ve been given to play for Murray State,” Cooper said. “This upcoming season I have very high regards and predictions. Undoubtedly, we have some challenges with losing a bunch of seniors. Overall, I’ve really been satisfied how the guys have been dedicating themselves throughout fall camp and setting up their positions.”

Although the team has many transfers and incoming freshmen, Cooper said they’ve been filling in the holes and working hard to take up the large roles.

Team chemistry is an important factor in a successful team, Cooper said. No matter what, the guys are there for each other on and off the field. It doesn’t matter how talented a team is if it can’t be stick together.

“There will be good times and there will be bad times, and you have to take it all with a grain of salt,” Cooper said. “As captain, you’ve got to try to keep a level head no matter what is going on, be consistent and maintain a good attitude. Prepare everyday like you’re going to be the best.”

 

Story by Laura Kovarik, Contributing writer

The Therrell family: Where football is king

August 29, 2014 Football
Fumi Nakamura/The News Defensive coordinator Dennis Therrell kneels with the team Thursday night at Roy Stewart Stadium.

Fumi Nakamura/The News
Defensive coordinator Dennis Therrell kneels with the team Thursday night at Roy Stewart Stadium.

For the Therrell family, football is more than a game. It’s not even a way of life – it seems to be the air that they breathe.

This is good news for Racer fans because the Murray State football team is infused with the passion of not just one or two, but three Therrells this season.

The patriarch of the family, Dennis Therrell, is in his second year as defensive coordinator. This is his second stint as defensive coordinator, the first being in 2004 when he inherited a defense that ranked at the bottom of most major statistics.

The 2013 season saw defensive improvements in every category from the previous season and the team looks to continue that momentum heading into the 2014 season.

Therrell is joined on this year’s team by his two sons, John and Cody, both of which he has coached in college.

“The coaching dynamic with my sons is the same as everybody else,” Therrell said. “You know they’re your sons but when practice starts and all that they’re just another player. You kind of realize they’re your sons again after it’s over with. Once it starts, they’re just like everybody else. I don’t know any other way to do it.”

Therrell’s oldest son, John, followed his dad to Murray State last year after spending four years at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and played one year with the Racers. In his lone season at Murray State, John recorded 45 tackles and intercepted a pair of passes. Therrell ended his home season last year by winning the game for the Racers as he picked off a Missouri State pass on the final play of the game to secure the victory.

When asked about the athletic relationship with his father, John repeated the same sentiment as Dennis.

“I don’t notice having my dad as a coach very much,” John said. “I played under him both at UNLV and at Murray State so I knew how that dynamic worked. I do my job, do what he tells me and whether or not he’s my dad I have to get it done so that’s what happens.”

John made the leap from the field to the office this offseason as he joined the Racer staff and is now working with linebackers while pursuing his master’s in public administration from the University.

The transition from player to coach has been a natural one according to John.

“I thought it was relatively easy,” John said, referring to the change in status. “I had played in the scheme and so I know what is demanded of the players on the field. Now it’s just being able to teach and coach the guys and show them what they know. It helps me since I ran it myself and I know what you have to do physically. Now I know what you have to do mentally also and that helps in the coaching part.”

The third member of the Therrell trinity is Cody, a redshirt sophomore cornerback for the Racers this season. Cody spent two years playing for head coach Steve Duncan at Murray High School where he earned All-Western Kentucky Conference honors after recording 10 interceptions.

For John and Cody, their passion for football and competition started at an early age. Separated by only three years, their house was always used as a gymnasium for their brotherly rivalry.

“We were always competitive,” John admitted. “It didn’t matter what we were doing, there was always some competitive aspect to it. We moved around a lot since dad’s a football coach and that’s how that business is and so we were each other’s best friends. We hung out with each other. We were like glue – we stuck together.”

The youngest Therrell, Abby, is not short on athletic ability either as she plays soccer for Murray High School.

According to Dennis, however, it wasn’t himself who fostered the competitive spirit in his children. Therrell gives the credit to his wife, Dawn.

“You know, football coaches, their wives raise the kids,” Therrell said. “They’re the glue that holds the whole family together. Their mom, she was a coach when we got married and she was also a college field hockey player, so athletics has been our life.”

For Therrell and his family, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s the Therrell family,” Dennis said. “That’s just how it’s always been. We don’t know anything else.”

 

Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer

 

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