Tiger Opponent Preview: Murray State Racers

On Saturday (6:00 P.M., PPV) the Missouri Tigers kick off their 2013 football season by playing host to the Murray State Racers in non-conference action. We preview the Tigers first opponent of the year.

On Saturday (6:00 P.M., PPV) the Missouri Tigers kick off their 2013 football season by playing host to the Murray State Racers in non-conference action. Murray State, of the Ohio Valley Conference, comes in off a 5-6 record in 2012.

On Monday, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel spoke briefly about Murray State.

“Murray State is a football team with a lot of good players and good athletes,” said Coach Pinkel. “And, they are very well-coached.”

Murray State Head Coach Chris Hatcher talked about opening the season at Missouri.

“It’s always an exciting time to open a new season, even though you’re playing an opponent that is going to be a little tougher than most, if you will,” said Coach Hatcher. “We’re going to get some game reps under the lights against very good competition. It’s a fun week. There’s really not a whole lot of pressure on us. It’s one of those deals that we’re going to go out and we’re going to compete and do what we do the best and see what happens.”

Coach Hatcher has an all-new defensive staff, and an all-new 3-4 defensive scheme. He also returns his leading tackler from 2011, in fifth-year senior captain and middle linebacker Sam Small 6’1” 230, who missed the entire 2012 season due to injury. In 2011, Small registered 115 total tackles for the Racers.

Coach Hatcher also thinks his secondary is improved from a year ago when the Racers surrendered 513 yards and 41.4 points per game.

“I really think our secondary is a big strength,” said Coach Hatcher. “That’s been a weakness the last couple of years. But I think our new scheme has allowed them to get more eyes to the football, and has allowed them to use their athleticism, where they’re not on an island all of the time. And, they’re playing with a lot of confidence on that side of the ball…………………………………………… We’re playing a lot more zone coverage. We can mix it up and play man, as well. But, we’re playing more zone.”

The secondary is led by returning strong safety Brandon Wicks 5’11” 198, who led the Racers in 2012 with 73 total tackles. He’s another of Murray State’s senior captains.

On offense, the Racers are going to continue to operate an up-tempo spread offense that is similar in scheme to the Missouri offense. Last year, Murray State averaged 76 offensive plays per game, 59% of which were passes. Playing a schedule composed primarily of other FCS opponents, the Racers averaged 484.4 yards of total offense, and 39.2 points, per game.

The biggest difference for Coach Hatcher’s Racers on offense this year is a new QB, in sophomore Maikhail Miller 6’3” 234, who transferred from Ole Miss.

“We’re breaking in a new quarterback,” said Coach Hatcher. ““He’s got a big, strong arm………………………………………. The thing that he does better than our other quarterbacks is he has great mobility, and he can really move in the pocket. I really think that he’s going to be a big threat running the ball as well as being a passer, which is what we primarily do.”

“We’ve got two receivers who haven’t played a whole lot of ball out there,” continued Coach Hatcher. “And, we’ve got two guys on the right side of the line who have played sparingly.”

Murray State does return a trio of playmakers on offense, including a pair of talented senior TBs, in Jaamal Berry 5’10” 200 and Duane Brady 5’8” 180, and a 2012 FCS All-American on the outside in senior Walter Powell 6’0” 187, from St. Louis (MO) Hazelwood East. Powell earned preseason FCS All-America recognition from just about every organization that does a preseason team. And, he is coming off a season where he earned FCS First-Team All-America honors from multiple publications as an all-purpose back. He’ll line up at an outside receiver position for the Racers, and he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands after the catch, as well as in the return game.

“Walter Powell is very similar to SEC receivers,” said Miller, speaking of his new favorite target. “He’s fast, he’s quick, and he can go get it……………………………….. He can go get the deep ball, as well.”

Last season, Berry (7.1 yards/carry) and Brady (5.0 yards/carry) combined for 1264 yards rushing. Powell accounted for 193 all-purpose yards per game, including 110.3 yards/game receiving.

“On offense, our strength right now is our backfield,” explained Coach Hatcher. “You know, you look at the experience we have with Duane Brady and Jaamal Berry. Those guys have made big-time plays for us over the last few years.”

Up front, the racers are led by senior center Harris Bivin 6’3’ 310, a four-year starter, and another of Murray State’s captains. He’s flanked by a quartet of somewhat smaller linemen. As Coach Hatcher pointed out earlier this week, Murray State’s offensive line may be facing his team’s biggest challenge in trying to keep Missouri’s talented defensive front from wreaking havoc in the backfield.

“In a game like this (against Missouri), that’s the biggest question,” said Coach Hatcher. “Can you hold your own in the trenches? And, can you hold your own in the special teams?”

2012 Comparative Statistics

Murray State (5-6) Missouri (5-7)

39.2........................................................Points.....................................................25.8

484.4.................................................Total Offense.............................................356.4

135.5................................................Rushing Yards............................................138.5

34.3.........................................Rushing Attempts/Game........................................37.8

4.0....................................... ..........Yards Per Carry...............................................3.7

348.9..............................................Passing Yardage...........................................217.9

48.5.........................................Passing Attempts/Game.........................................34.5

10.4.......................................Yards Per Pass Completion.....................................11.5

41.4................................................Points Allowed...............................................28.4

513.0...............................................Total Defense..............................................390.7

200.0.......................................Rushing Yards Allowed.......................................149.2

4.5..........................................Yards Per Carry Allowed.........................................4.0

313.0.......................................Passing Yards Allowed.......................................241.4

12.5....................................Yards Per Completion Allowed..................................11.1

-4..................................................Turnover Margin................................................+1


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