The Conference-leading Golden Eagles (5-2, 4-1 OVC) are getting ready to host the Murray State Racers (4-4, 2-3 OVC) on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 at Tucker Stadium for this season’s homecoming game.
This will be the 77th meeting between the two teams and Tech holds the overall record 41-34-1 over the Racers.
“In this league, you have to better than your opponent that day,” head coach Watson Brown said. “If we play good we’ll have a chance to win. If we don’t, Murray will kick our fanny.”
Tech is coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, a 21-14 victory over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on the road last weekend. The win gave the Gamecocks their first conference loss of the season and moved the Golden Eagles into a three-way tie for first place in the OVC with Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky.
Tech controls its own destiny now and will win the conference if they win the final three games of the season.
In the game against JSU, Tech was led on offense by quarterback Tre Lamb, who was 15-for-18 for 168 yards. Running backs Adam Urbano and Dontey Gay led the ground attack, as they combined for 131 yards on 24 carries, and had all three scores.
Senior defensive back Richmond Tooley said the key to the offense’s success has been confidence.
“[As a defensive player,] when I see them, I see talent and it breeds confidence,” Tooley said. “They’re so talented. We almost expect them to score every time they step on the field.”
On defense, freshman defensive back Austin Tallant led Tech with 12 tackles, and senior Corey Watson had eight, including his final tackle which forced a fumble as JSU was driving for the potential game-tying touchdown. That fumble was the only turnover of the game.
Tooley had nothing but good things to say about Watson, who leads the OVC in interceptions.
“He’s a big help on and off the field. You can’t replace him,” Tooley said. “On the field, he’s having his best year. He’s been there in every clutch situation.
“It’s fitting,” Tooley continued, “because he’s been here a while, and he’s been the defensive MVP this year. He’s one of the guys you want to win it for.”
Murray State is coming off a heartbreaking 34-33 loss to Eastern Kentucky where a missed extra point was the difference in the game.
The Racers are led by senior running back Mike Harris who rushed for 206 yards on 21 carries against EKU, his fifth 100-yard rushing game this season. He also caught six passes for 66 yards, giving him 272 all-purpose yards in the game.
“They have the most dynamic player in our league in Harris,” Brown said. “He is probably the biggest game changer in the OVC this year. When he gets loose, he’s special. He kicked us a year ago when we went up there so you better know where he is at all times.”
This Saturday’s game is especially important to the team because it is Homecoming. Tooley said it means even more to him and his fellow seniors.
“It’d mean a lot to win,” Tooley said. “It’s exciting to play in front of on fans, alumni and family. After playing for four years, you want to win your last Homecoming.
“Last year we lost, and we felt like we let down the fans, and ourselves… we plan on giving it all we’ve got; defending home turf. We will leave it all on the field.”
Tech is currently ranked 15th and 20th in the FCS Coaches Poll and the Sports Network/Fathead.com Poll, respectively.
“I could care less,” Brown said about the rankings. “All that matters is where you’re ranked at the end of the year. It means nothing. It’s nice for the program but it means nothing for this year’s team. That’s gone in one day if you go out and play poorly. We just have to forget about it and play ball which is easy to do when you look at your next opponent.
Tooley’s remarks about the polls were similar to those of his coach.
“Being ranked is an honor, and it’s cool to be recognized, but it means nothing if we don’t keep winning,” Tooley said. “We are focused and we’re taking it one game at a time, starting with [Saturday].
“When we put it all together, the only thing that can stop us is ourselves.”
Everyone is invited to attend the pre-game homecoming activities in the Magic 98.5 Tailgate Park. Tickets for the Tech Homecoming game can be purchased in the Athletic Office in the Hooper Eblen Center.