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Opportunistic Murray State upends injury-riddled Tech

MURRAY, Ky. – Murray State, already an explosive offensive unit, got plenty of help from a mistake-prone, patched-up Tennessee Tech lineup and the Racers rode their opportunities to a 44-13 Ohio Valley Conference victory Saturday afternoon in chilly Stewart Stadium.

Tech, which had won three straight coming into the contest, suffered four turnovers in the game as its overall record slipped to 4-5. The Golden Eagles are 3-3 in the OVC with Homecoming next Saturday against Eastern Kentucky.

Murray State, which leads the OVC in passing and total offense, had 504 yards in the contest, improving to 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the league.

After taking a 16-0 lead, Murray State saw the Golden Eagles close the gap to 16-7 on a 19-yard TD pass from Cass Barnes to Tim Benford. MSU added two field goals, and turned away a Tech scoring chance from the one-yard line to take a 22-7 lead into halftime.

Tech made it 22-13 to start the second half as Jocques Crawford raced 13 yards for a touchdown, but mistakes caught up with Tech after that. The final score came on a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown on the game’s last play.

Barnes, making his first start since 2007, was 21-for-35 for a career-best 203 yards and one touchdown. He threw one interception and was sacked twice. Benford caught eight passes for 98 yards. Dontey Gay, who left the game in the third quarter with an injury, led Tech’s ground game with 49 yards on eight carries.

Marty Jones headlined the defense with 12 tackles and an interception while Richmond Tooley had two interceptions.

Mike Harris, the league’s leading rusher, had 242 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Casey Brockman passed for 202 yards and two scores, going 17-for-27 with three interceptions. He was sacked once. Marcus Harris had eight catches for 126 yards.


First Quarter Notes

* Murray took advantage of a Golden Eagle mistake on the opening possession to grab a 7-0 lead. After the Racers marched inside the Tech 10, the Golden Eagle defense held to force a field goal attempt. However, Tech had 12 players lined up on the fourth down play, and the penalty moved the ball to a fourth-and-one so MSU chose to chance it. Casey Brockman's pitch to Mike Harris allowed him to walk into the end zone on the right side.

* Cass Baarnes, makiing his first start of the season, had the offense moving on Tech's first possession, getting into Racer territory. However, Dontey Gay lost the handle on the handoff and Murray recovered at the MSU 40.

* On the first play, Brockman fired a deep pass to a wide open Marcus Harrris for a 59-yard touchdown and a 13-0 MSU lead following a missed PAT.

* Marty Jones stripped the ball from the receivers hands to make his fourth interception of the season at the TTU 14 to halt Murray's third possession. Marcus Harris appeared to make a catch, but Jones took it away before they hit the ground.

* Another mistake on special teams cost the Golden Eagles the ball with 3:08 to play in the opening quarter. After the defense came up with three big stops to force a punt, the Golden Eagles ran into the kicker to allow MSU to retain possession. MSU moved across midfield in two plays, but Richmond Tooley came up with second interception of the season at the Tech 23.

* On second down, Cass Barnes scrambled and lost the football, and MSU recovered at the Tech 24. Four plays later Keinan Cullen kicked a 37-yard field goal to make it a 16-0 Racer lead with 18 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Second Quarter Notes

* Junior Tim Benford went up high in the end zone to pull down his ninth touchdown pass of the season, and the 21st of his decorated career, to cut the margin to 16-7. It was a 19-yard pass from Barnes for the score.

* Kelechi Ordu came up with two tackles and Dustin Dillihay made an ankle tackle to save a TD, as Murray settled for a 20-yard field goal after facing first-and-goal. That made it 19-7.

* The Golden Eagles drove to the MSU one-yard line, facing fourth-and-goal, but Barnes' pass attempt to Charles Stevens was broken up at the goal line with two minutes to go until halftime. Earlier, Barnes had gone 10 yards for an apparent TD, but the play was called back on a penalty.

* The Racers got out from the shadow of their goal post when Mike Harris ran 94 yards to the Tech one. A penalty on the play moved the ball back to the Tech 11. Once again, the Golden Eagle defense held on three downs, MSU called timeout with 2.7 seconds to go facing a fourth-and-three at the four. Racer coach Chris Hatcher elected to go for the field goal and Cullen made the 21-yarder for a 22-7 halftime lead.

Third Quarter Notes

* Tech took the opening kick of the second half and marched to paydirt. After Dontey Gay left with an ankle injury, Jocques Crawford (who was not expected to play due to an ankle injury) raced 13 yards for the touchdown. Murray State blocked the PAT to make it a 22-13 contest.

* Tim Beford lost a fumble at the Tech 27 following a 12-yard pickup and Matt Johnson recovered for the Racers. On the first play, Richmond Tooley snared his second interception of the game at the six to give the ball back to the offense.

* Tech couldn't move and Nick Campbell punted into the wind to the TTU 43. From there, the Racers went 10 plays and 20 yards and Cullen kicked his third field goal of the day, a 40-yarder for a 25-13 lead wtih 2:20 to play in the quarter.

Fourth Quarter Notes

* Still within two touchdowns, the Golden Eagles were moving to open the fourth quarter, but stalled at the MSU 34. From there, Matthew Barker's 51-yard field goal try was blocked by Dairrian Skinner and recovered at the Tech 39. On third down, Dexter Durrante busted a 22-yard yard, which led to a one-yard TD push by Duane Brady. That made it 32-13 wih 12:13 to play.

* Murray was backed up to its own seven following a 45-yard punt by Campbell, but that didn't faze the Racers. Brockman hit Marcus Harris for 15 yards, then for 33 yards, and finally hit Dexter Barnett for a 0ne-yard TD to cap the 93-yard, 11-play scoring drive that made it 38-13. Jamere Hogie blocked the PAT try.

* On the final play of the game, Barnes was hit as he threw a pass over the middle, and Prince Nwagbara made an interception at the MSU 23. He rambled 77 yards for a touchdown as the clock expired for the final 44-13 margin.