The story about this Racers team all season has been about quarterback Casey Brockman, and for good reason. Tonight, Brockman was sometimes brilliant, throwing for 445 yards on 41 for 63 passing. But I’ve contended since this summer that Brockman wouldn’t determine the Racers success this year.
Case in point, the Racers put up 537 of total offense.
And lost. 42-20.
It wasn’t just the defense, which allowed Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick Smothers to hit 31 of 41 passes for 258 yards. The special teams deserve part of the blame, allowing Central Arkansas premium field position and a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter that killed momentum the Racers had been building to that point.
And when the Racers could move the ball, a costly penalty or turnover ended drive after drive, including 3 in the red zone.
Few kind words for the Racers secondary
..because it wasn’t very good. The Bears had an absolute field day against the Racers secondary.
“We run a bend, but don’t break kind of defense,” Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher reminded us, which meant keeping their young corners 8-10 yards off the line. (Even in short yardage situations) But Smothers had no problem hitting the underneath man for 5 yards on each play, before the linebackers or corners could even get to the defenders from their “safe” position well off the line.
But that does bring up an interesting point, does the blame fall on the players, or on the coaches who kept them off the line? Hatcher clearly took responsibility for the gameplan, and even added that if the Racers pressed, that the Bears would have beat them deep, which happened a few times anyway.
With the story out of the OVC this year being about it being the “year of the quarterback,” Murray State could be in some serious trouble. So what’s the answer?
“We have to tackle better,” Hatcher says. While he’s right, you can’t tackle players you’re yards away from because of your defensive alignment.
Brockman has an All-American kind of night, except…
1 touchdown versus 3 interceptions is, obviously, not a very good ratio. 2 of those picks came during the 4th quarter, where Brockman really began forcing throws to try to get Murray State back into the game. But even before that, there were some questionable throws, and near picks.
The Racers getting down 14 points early really put Brockman, and Murray State’s offense into a hole. The one knock I have on him is that he wants to put the game on his shoulders when the Racers are down, which is honorable, and honestly smart: he is the team’s best offensive weapon, after all.
But he has to learn to throw the ball away. All 3 of those picks came with the #Racers driving, and all were inside their opponents 20.
“It was one of my worst games,” Brockman said afterwards. I actually disagree. For much of the game, Brockman was actually brilliant, but his mistakes were magnified by the magnitude.
For example, Brockman overthrew 2 open receivers…in the end zone. And Brockman did throw three pics, as mentioned before, all within the red zone.
No quarterback is going to make perfect throws on every play. But tonight, when Brockman missed, it seemed to always come at the the worst possible time. “It’s hard when you know you left 28 to 35 points on the field, from your own plays,” Brockman said.
Sadly, those bad throws overshadow the 41 good ones he made.
Rushing defense a bright spot.
I can’t say the defense was completely horrible. In fact, the Racers front four was spectacular in stopping the run. The Bears finished with just 30 rushing yards on 29 attempts. And before you point to sacks affecting the rushing total, Smothers was only sacked once by the Racers.
And it wasn’t just a case of the Racers stopping the run in late game “we know you’re going to run it” situations. In the first half, the Racers allowed a similar 18 yards on 14 rushes.
Offsides? 5 Times? Just the start of Racers penalty trouble.
The Racers committed 12 penalties for 96 yards, and much like the turnovers, they seemed to come on the worst possible plays. One memorable one came as Casey Brockman scrambled down to the Racers 5 yard line, only for it to be called back for holding. The result? The drive ended with one of those red zone interceptions I mentioned earlier.
And then there are the 5 offsides calls against the Racers, which I still find absolutely astounding. These are completely avoidable, more so than holding or things that happen during the chaos of a play. It’s very simple: start the play on the other side of the football.
If there was a “theme” to Coach Hatcher’s post game press conference (does such a thing exist?) it’s that he doesn’t think his team is 22 points worse than Central Arkansas.
I agree. They’re not 22 points worse.
But the sheer volume of mistakes leaves me wondering about this team’s “mental” strength. There are some players, and some teams that are just more apt to make mistakes than others. And I wonder if this is one of those teams.
They have a ton of talent, but in two games this season, have made mental mistake after mental mistake. They shouldn’t have lost by 22 to Central Arkansas. And they should have scored more than 3 points against Florida State.
But they didn’t.
The question is now, can they put together a game with all of their positives, and fewer mental errors?
Quote of the Night (So Far)
“When you get beat, you start throwing stats out. Stats are for the losing team.”
Ending on Good Notes
- During the 3rd quarter, Casey Brockman had to sit out a play due to losing his helmet, part of the NCAA’s new safety rules. What happened when he was on the bench? Spencer Phillips threw and completed his first ever pass, a 14-yard touchdown to Jordan Morrow. Not a bad way to start a career.
- The Racers on 4th down? 4 of 5. Not too shabby.
- It’s only non-conference. 0-2 doesn’t mean much.