Just The Facts
The Murray State football team scored 10 points in the final five minutes of Saturday’s game at 25th-ranked UT Martin, including a Gabriel Vicente field goal as time expired, to rally and knock off the Skyhawks, 13-10, at Hardy M. Graham Stadium in Martin, Tennessee.
How It Happened
In a game where neither team garnered over 300 yards of total offense, points were hard to come by in the contest. Despite both teams having chances in the first 30 minutes of the ball game, at halftime the only points on the board were a field goal for each team. In the third quarter, again each offense had its moments, but both defenses stepped up, leading to another scoreless quarter for both teams.
However, the fourth quarter was about as exciting as one could imagine with a wild series of events leading to the Murray State win. After Murray State’s first drive of the stanza stalled at the 50, Khalid Hagens returned the Racers’ punt 67 yards for touchdown, to put his team on top 10-3 with 11:19 to play. On the ensuing Murray State drive, Hagens came up big for UT Martin again by picking off Shuler Bentley and returning the ball to the MSU 43-yard line to give the Skyhawks the ball with 10:09 remaining.
On the next drive, UT Martin used up 4:09 of clock time only to come up empty after a missed Mitch Mersman field goal. With the following MSU drive starting at the Racer 20-yard line, Bentley jump started the possession with a 33-yard pass to Jensen Feggins, followed by a four-yard rush of his own to put Murray State at the UTM 43. On the next play, despite Bentley finding Rodney Castille for 11 yards, the play was called back due to holding on the Racers, giving MSU a second-and-16 from their own 47-yard line.
Facing a second-and-long situation with time slipping away, Bentley found Austin Thomas who went 48 yards down the field, only to fumble at the five-yard line. With the game on the line and the ball loose, MSU’s DeQuan Dallas fell on the fumble for the touchdown to tie the game at 10, after a Vicente extra point that was made in the driving rain.
After James Sappington kicked the ball into the UT Martin end zone on the ensuing kickoff, the Skyhawks took over on their own 25-yard line with 4:34 to go in regulation. On the very first play of the drive, Lamont Crittendon forced and recovered a fumble by the Skyhawks’ Marquez Grayson to give MSU a shot at the win with 4:27 on the clock.
With just 31 yards separating MSU from the goal line, the Racers needed positive yardage and solid clock management in order to pick up the victory. After a 17-yard rush by Nolan Nichols put Murray State at the Skyhawk 17-yard line, a fumble by the Racers backed them up to the 24-yard line. Facing a third-and-19 with 2:10 to go, UT Martin was charged with a facemask penalty which gave MSU at first-and-10 at the Skyhawk 12-yard line.
After the next two plays pushed Murray State back to the 17-yard line, head coach Mitch Stewart took a timeout with six seconds left in order to give Vicente a chance at a 32-yarder. On the heels of the first miss of his career in the third quarter, a 41-yarder into the wind, and the rain still coming down, Vicente sent the ball through the uprights as time expired for the 13-10 win.
About The Skyhawks
Troy Cook was 16-for-23 for 125 yards on the day for UT Martin offensively, while Grayson and Ladarius Galloway combined for 98 yards on the ground. Defensively, Hagens had five tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble to go along with his punt return touchdown and interception. James Gilleylen led all players with a game-high 12 tackles, including seven solo, as well as forcing a fumble of his own and breaking up as pass.
Bentley was 15-for-25 for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception Saturday, while Castille led the MSU receiving corps with 92 yards on four catches. Nolan Nichols ended the game as MSU’s leading rusher with 47 yards on 11 carries, but none was bigger than his 17-yard run on the game winning drive. The Racers finished the game with a season-high 250 passing yards and 267 yards of total offense.
Big Time D
The Murray State defense forced three turnovers Saturday, including a fourth quarter fumble that led directly to the game-winning field goal. The three points allowed by the Murray State defense in the game is the fewest since Chris Boone took over as defensive coordinator in 2015 and by any Racer defense since Austin Peay in 2013. In addition, the 229 total yards allowed is the fewest the Racers have given up against an FBS or FCS opponent this season.
Bishop Woods led Murray State in the game with eight tackles, while Crittendon followed with seven, as well as a sack, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. Kenney Wooten had MSU’s other sack in the game, while Marico Paige forced the other fumble and Zach Shipley recovered it. Marquez Sanford had the Racers’ lone interception of the game, as well as racking up 95 all-purpose yards on kick and punt returns.
The win over UT Martin was the first for Murray State since 2010 and the first in Martin since 2003. Prior to Saturday, the Skyhawks had won six consecutive games in the series and six straight at home.
OK, What’s Next?
The Racers return to Roy Stewart Stadium next Saturday to host Eastern Illinois before their annual bye week. Kickoff in Murray is scheduled for 3 p.m.
by Parker Griffith