The Murray State football team will begin the back stretch of its season by taking on Eastern Kentucky Saturday at 3 p.m., at Roy Stewart Stadium in Murray, Kentucky. The game will also serve as the team’s annual homecoming contest.
Homecoming 2017 is set to be a dreary one as the high Saturday will be just 51 degrees with periods of rain throughout the day. While there is a 78-percent chance of rain for the game, the winds will be low with gusts no higher than 10 mph.
Last Time Out
The Murray State football team scored two touchdowns in the last 10 minutes of regulation to force overtime with Eastern Illinois Saturday at Roy Stewart Stadium in Murray. However, a blocked field goal in the second overtime allowed Eastern Illinois to escape with the 27-24 win. Down 21-7 with under 10 minutes to play, the Racers began their rally when Jordon Gandy caught a Shuler Bentley pass two-yards behind the line-of-scrimmage and went 59 yards for the touchdown with 9:51 to play. Murray State forced EIU to punt on the ensuing drive and got the ball back with 6:29 remaining.
Getting the ball on his own 20, Bentley took the Racers 80 yards down field and capped the drive with a 15-yard pass to D.J. Penick to tie the game at 21 with 4:06 left on the clock. On the Panthers next drive, they ate 3:08 of clock time and went 59 yards only to miss a field goal and give MSU back the ball with 58 seconds left in regulation. On their final drive of regulation, MSU had back-to-back seven-yard rushes, but Cornelius Page put an abrupt end to the Racers’ final effort when he picked off Bentley with 31 seconds to play. The Panthers ran one play, before allowing the clock to expire to send the game to overtime.
In the first overtime, the two teams traded field goals with Gabriel Vicente connecting from 36 yards for Murray State and Matt Severino hitting from 22-yards out for Eastern Illinois. In the second overtime, Severino connected again, this time from 27-yards out. However Vicente’s attempt was blocked, allowing EIU to hold on for the 27-24 double overtime win.
The Eastern Kentucky Series
One of the longest series in program, history, the Racers and Colonels will meet for the 77th time Saturday. The Colonels hold a commanding lead in the series at 45-26-4 and also led the all-time series in Murray 21-15-2. However, the Racers did snap a two-game losing streak and a five-game skid in games at EKU last season with a convincing 41-28 win in Richmond. It was the largest win in the series by either team since 2012, the largest by the Racers overall since 1999 and the largest by the Racers in Richmond since 1952.
Scouting The Colonels
A 21-point third quarter helped push Eastern Kentucky past UT Martin last Saturday, 31-21, moving the Colonels to 2-5 on the year and 2-3 in the OVC. EKU currently allows 30.7 points on 355.7 yards per game, while scoring 20.6 points on 317.3 yards per game. Quarterback Tim Boyle leads a pass-heavy Colonel offense, 232.9 passing yards per game compared to 84.4 per game on the ground, with 1,438 yards and seven touchdowns on 132 completions in 216 attempts with eight interceptions. Entering the game second in the OVC in both total yards at 531 and yards per game at 75.9, Ryan Markush has served as Boyd’s leading target this season and has a team-high six touchdowns. Defensively, Jeffrey Canady leads the way for Eastern Kentucky with a team-high 55 tackles to go along with 4.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Saturday, the Racers will go for their fifth consecutive homecoming victory and seventh in the last eight tries. According to known records, Murray State is 53-30-1 all-time in homecoming games. Prior to this year’s meeting, MSU has faced Eastern Kentucky eight times for its annual homecoming game with a record of 3-4-1. EKU served as the Racers’ homecoming foe five times between 1696 and 1981, but Saturday will mark the first time since 2001 that the two teams have met for MSU’s homecoming.
Not A Lot Of Laundry
The Racers are currently one of the most disciplined teams in the nation ranking in the top 10 of each of the four penalty categories. The Racers are currently eighth in number of penalties and penalties per game (30 & 4.29) and 10th in penalty yards and penalty yards per game (265 & 37.9). The Racers are also the least penalized team in all four categories in the OVC.
Central Arkansas’ Tremon Smith currently leads the nation in interceptions per game with five picks in seven games for 0.71 per games. Currently, MSU’s D’Montre Wade, along with Richmond’s Daniel Jones, are hot on Smith’s heels with four interceptions in six game for 0.67 per game.
OK, What’s Next?
Murray State returns to the road next week for its bi-annual trip to Jacksonville State to take on the third-ranked Gamecocks. Kickoff from Burgess-Snow Field in Jacksonville is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Athletic Media Relations Assistant (FB, Rifle, SB)
Murray State University