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Murray State Racers living up to their name
All those scouting reports Jacksonville State has from the last seven years of playing Murray State? Shread ’em.
That tape from seven games, the last six of which the Gamecocks have won? Don’t even take it out of the box. Better yet, burn it.
It’s all useless this week, as worthless as a timeout in your pocket when the clock hits all zeroes.
The Hatch Attack comes to JSU Stadium Saturday and it’s nothing like anything the Gamecocks have seen from the Racers before.
It was said in this space about UT Martin a few years ago — and if it keeps up, probably will be said about Southeast Missouri in a couple weeks — this isn’t your father’s Murray State football team.
“According to what we’ve seen in the past, it isn’t even close,” Gamecocks defensive coordinator Greg Stewart said.
First-year Racers coach Chris Hatcher brings an attack to town straight out of the Hal Mumme-Mike Leach school of offense. Spread the field with weapons and let the other team figure out how to deal with it.
Hatcher said last week if the Racers could find a way to get over the hump they could be “a dangerous team.” Putting 52 points — 42 in the first half — and 443 yards on Martin to earn their first win is about as hump-jumping as it gets, but the full effect still might not have been seen.
“I don’t know if it was the full fury of it,” Hatcher said Tuesday. “I don’t know if we have enough bullets to get to where we really need to be this season, but it sure was a good step in the right direction.”
Nine players caught balls in the game. There are the deep threats, of course, but the system is built around a lot of short passes and screens that will keep the Gamecocks’ defensive line and inside linebackers on their toes and force the corners to shed blocks to help.
A year ago, the Racers averaged 162 yards a game passing and threw for more than 200 in a game only four times. This year, they’re averaging 244 yards a game passing and have gone over 200 in all four games.
“We really can’t go back on some of the stuff they did last year,” cornerback T.J. Heath said. “We’re going to go in expecting a lot of things.”
When Eastern Illinois came back on the Gamecocks in the final 6:28 last week, the Panthers did it by attacking the perimeter. JSU coach Jack Crowe said after the game if his team didn’t tighten things up in that part of its game, Murray quarterback Jeff Ehrhardt could really exploit them there.
Ehrhardt leads the Football Championship Subdivision in completions (119) and completions per game (29.75). Thirteen players have caught passes.
But the Hatch Attack is not just an aerial show, although that’s the rep. It also has a rushing element that most spread teams struggle with in the red zone, and last week it finally got off the ground with 211 yards against the Skyhawks.
“We’ve never seen the speed of the game like we’re fixin’ to see, so it’s just getting our guys all on the same page, because of the tempo,” Stewart said. “Everybody thinks they’re going to chunk it, chunk it, chunk it, but they’re going to run it, too.”
Mike Harris ran for 119 yards and had five catches for 45 more in his most extensive action of the season. Harris has been an enigma to the JSU coaches and they’ve spent a good part of the early week scouring for information on the 200-pound junior, particularly given the Gamecocks haven’t tackled big backs well this season.
“We got him here this summer,” Hatcher said. “His paperwork wasn’t complete, so he couldn’t play the first game. The second, he didn’t practice very good and I didn’t dress him. The third, he decided he’d practice hard and had a good game against Central Arkansas, then had a great week of practice, so he started against Martin.
“That’s the reason you’ve not heard about him. Plus, we like to be secretive around here.”
If the Racers (1-3) keep playing like they did last week — or they knock off the fourth-ranked Gamecocks Saturday — they won’t be a secret for long.
By Al Muskewitz, Anniston Star