Daily Egyptian

Saluki football notebook: Scouting the Murray State Racers

Freshman+running+back+D.J.+Davis+sprints+during+the+Salukis%27+30-22+win+against+Southeast+Missouri+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+10%2C+2016%2C+at+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40JacobWiegand_DE%29
Freshman running back D.J. Davis sprints during the Salukis' 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Freshman running back D.J. Davis sprints during the Salukis' 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Freshman running back D.J. Davis sprints during the Salukis' 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

By Jesse Robertson

After SIU football bounced back from a rough loss against Florida Atlantic to defeat Southeast Missouri State, the Dawgs will try to continue their success Saturday against Murray State.

Murray State is coached by Mitch Stewart, who enters his second year as head coach of the Racers after serving as the team’s offensive coordinator for four seasons.

The Racers finished 3-8 during Stewart’s first year last season, which was enough for seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference.  

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So far this season, Murray State is 0-2 with losses to Illinois (52-3) and fellow Missouri Valley Football Conference foe Missouri State (28-22).

MORE: SIU football renewing long-lost local rivalry this weekend

During Stewart’s time as offensive coordinator and head coach, Murray State has had a very potent offense. The Racers are second-best in the nation with 347.3 passing yards per game and had the 12th ranked offense at 466.1 total yards.

This could be problematic for SIU, which through two games gave up an average of 263 yards through the air. While that isn’t a terrible number, it will certainly be key for SIU to limit what Murray State can do.

Saluki sophomore safety Jefferson Vea tackles SEMO redshirt freshman wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson during the first half of the Salukis' matchup against the Redhawks on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Saluki sophomore safety Jefferson Vea tackles SEMO redshirt freshman wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson during the first half of SIU’s matchup against the Redhawks on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Murray State put up those impressive numbers with now senior quarterback K.D. Humphries. Humphries has had a rough start to his senior season, throwing five interceptions — the most in the Football Championship Subdivision — to two touchdowns.

The Racers lost their top two receivers to graduation last year in Jeremy Harness and Paul Rice, who put up a combined 1,817 yards and six touchdowns.

The team also quietly had a potent rushing attack with Roman Clay leading the way last year with 916 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he was arrested in January on five felony charges of burglary and was suspended by the team. The next leading rusher on the team was graduated wide receiver Nick Taylor with 326 yards.

MORE: From helmets to headsets: Nick Hill’s rise to SIU football’s head coach

This year, the Racers have just 62 rushing yards on 56 attempts.

If SIU is able to force Murray State to earn everything it gets through the air, the Salukis have a good chance at stalling the offense the Racers like to run.

As potent as Murray State’s offense was, its defense was equally impotent.

The Racers have allowed 492 yards per game on defense this season.

Their rushing defense has been especially deplorable, allowing the fifth-most yards per game in the FCS.

Junior tight end John Gardner practices drills on the sideline Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, during the Salukis’ 30-22 victory against Southeast Missouri at Saluki Stadium. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Junior tight end John Gardner practices drills on the sideline Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, during the Salukis’ 30-22 victory against Southeast Missouri at Saluki Stadium. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

That could result in a field day for the high-octane Saluki offense that averages 466.5 yards per game.

Overall, the Salukis appear to be the better team than Murray State. They will take on Northern Iowa on Oct. 1.

Staff writer Jesse Robertson can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3333.

To stay up to date with all your SIU football news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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