Defense, Big Plays Deliver First Win of Hood Era

Racers force three turnovers, put up 300-plus yards of offense in win

Photo Credit Dave Winder

The Dean Hood era of Murray State football began in spectacular fashion Sunday, as the Racers braved the rain and a two-plus hour delay to top UT Martin, 14-10, at Roy Stewart Stadium in Murray, Kentucky. Sunday marked the first game for both teams in 463 days due to the postponement of the traditional fall season amid the COVID-19 pandemic

After swapping fruitless opening drives with UT Martin, Alec Long got things going for the Racers on the Skyhawk’s second possession when he tipped a pass from John Bachus III that fell into the hands of Don Parker for the first of three takeaways by the Racer defense in the game.

On the ensuing Racers drive, Preston Rice found DeQuan Dallas deep and wide open for an 83-yard touchdown to give MSU a 7-0 lead in the first. The Skyhawks would add a field goal in the second quarter, but the Racers still led at halftime, 7-3.

The Racers forced two more turnovers in the third quarter including a forced fumble by Parker and an interception by Sylvaughn Turner. Despite the turnovers, Murray State was unable to score off them, leaving the door open for UT Martin. Then, with 39 seconds left in the third quarter, after hard rains all afternoon, the lightning arrived forcing a two-plus hour delay.

Once play resumed, however,  the Racers showed no signs of being affected by the wait. After punting on their first drive of the fourth, Rice drove his team 65-yards down the field on nine plays and scored on a keeper, to extend MSU lead to 14-3 with 4:11 to play.

With 2:13 to go in the game, disaster struck for Murray State as it committed its only turnover of the game via fumble, giving UTM the ball. Following the fumble, Dresser Winn took his team 58-yards in six plays to score, punching the ball in himself from the one with 59 seconds left in the game. The Skyhawks attempted an onside kick, but Murray State recovered to hold on for the 14-10 win.

Murray State rushed for 176 yards and passed for another 152 for a total of 328 yards of offense on 68 plays. Defensively, the Racers held UT Martin to just 213 yards of offense while forcing three turnovers. MSU was also 6-of-17 on third downs in the game, while limiting UT Martin to just three conversions on 13 attempts.

Rice finished the game at 9-for-22 for 155 yards with a rushing touchdown, a passing touchdown and no interceptions. Of Rice’s 155 passing yards in the game, the majority went to Dallas, as he totaled 111 yards and a touchdown on two catches. On the ground, Damonta Witherspoon led the attack for Murray State with 89 yards on 14 carries, while Rice added 52 on 11.

Defensively, Parker did a little bit of everything for Murray State with five total tackles, 2.0 tackle-for-loss for 22 yards, 1.0 sack for 21 yard, a forced fumble and an interception with a seven yard return. Long led MSU in the game with eight tackles, including six solo, while Tay Carothers added six more, all solo, as well as a pass breakup. Izaiah Reed and Scotty Humpich had the other two sacks in the game with Reed’s dropping UTM for a nine-yard loss, and Humpich’s costing the Skyhawks eight yards.

Murray State returns to action Sunday in Cape Girardeau when they take on Southeast Missouri at Houck Stadium at 2 p.m.

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