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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Racers get comeback win over SEMO

Malik Honeycutt returned a punt for a touchdown to help the Racers defeat SEMO. Photo courtesy of Dave Winder/Racer Athletics.

Jakob Milani
Sports Editor
[email protected]


A punt return touchdown and last second field goal propelled the Murray State football team to a 32-31 win on Saturday, Oct. 16, over the SEMO Redhawks.

After leading 16-10 at halftime, the Racers fell behind 31-16 with 15 minutes left in the game. A punt return touchdown from senior wide receiver Malik Honeycutt gave the Racers some momentum in the fourth quarter. As the time wound down, the Racers were able to set up a game winning field goal from junior kicker Aaron Baum.

“Muscle memory took over there,” Baum said after the game. “We practice game winning field goal reps at practice and it just felt no different. I knew I struck it well… I just looked up and the celebration was on.”

The Redhawks started with the ball and senior running back Geno Hess broke off a 60-yard run on the first play of the game. The run put the Redhawks in the redzone early, but the Racers held them out of the endzone and forced a 40-yard field goal that put the Redhawks up 3-0.

Freshman quarterback DJ Williams was named the starting quarterback for the first time in his career and he made his presence known early on with a 14-yard pass to freshman tight end Cole McDowell and a one-yard touchdown rush to give the Racers a 7-3 lead.

Junior quarterback CJ Ogbonna also made some plays early for SEMO. On the Redhawks’ second drive Ogbonna completed a 24-yard pass to graduate wide receiver Zack Smith and a 16-yard pass to senior wide receiver Aaron Alston. Hess capped off the drive with an 11-yard rushing touchdown that put the Redhawks up 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.

The Racers and Redhawks traded punts over the next two drives. The Racers broke the punt streak on their second drive of the second quarter with a 12-yard rushing touchdown from Williams to put the Racers back on top 13-10.

After forcing another punt by the Redhawks, the Racers had four minutes to score once more before the half. After Williams completed a 28-yard pass to senior wide receiver Malik Honeycutt and a 32-yard pass to senior running back Rodney Castille, the Racers were inside the 10 yard line and looking to strike. But the Redhawks defense held the Racers out of the end zone and forced a field goal to make it 16-10 Racers heading into halftime.

The Racers received the ball to start the second half but were forced to punt after just three plays. This happened the next two drives for both teams until the Redhawks were able to put a drive together with 9:49 left in the third quarter.

Ogbonna started the drive with a 17-yard pass to Alston, then Hess followed it up with a 12-yard rush that moved the ball up to the Racers 29 yard line. The Redhawks continued to move the ball up the field until Ogbonna took a five-yard rush into the endzone to give the Redhawks a 17-16 lead.

After the Racers were forced to punt again, Hess broke open a 42-yard rush on the first play of the Redhawks’ next drive. Just one play later, Hess took a 12-yard rush to the end zone to give the Redhawks a 24-16 lead.

The Redhawks forced another punt by the Racers and started their next drive from the SEMO 30 yard line. The Racers committed two 15-yard penalties on the drive, allowing the Redhakws to score in just four plays with the scoring play being a 26-yard pass from Ogbanna to Smith. As the game headed into the final quarter, the Redhawks led the Racers 31-16.

The Racers came out in the fourth quarter and started to put something together with a 39-yard pass from Williams to junior wide receiver Jacob Bell. Three plays later, Williams found freshman running back Demonta Witherspoon open in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 31-22 Redhawks.

On the next drive, the Racers defense forced a punt by the Redhawks. On the return, Honeycutt maneuvered his way through the Redhawks punt team to return the punt 52 yards for a touchdown. With that score, the Racers were down 32-29 with 11:51 left in the game.

Honeycutt said that he knew the team needed a spark and it was “my time to shine.”

“My number was called,” Honeycutt said. “SEMO wasn’t aware of where the ball was. They never picked up the ball… I knew once the ball was on the ground and I got it in my hand, I could make something happen.”

Honeycutt didn’t take all the credit though. He said it took all 11 of the players to make that return happen.

“I depended on all eleven of us to make that play,” Honeycutt said. “My teammates made some amazing blocks out there. But it wasn’t just me who made that return, it was everyone on that field.”

After the touchdown, neither defense was willing to give in. In the six drives following the punt, five of them ended in a punt and one ended in a turnover on downs for the Racers.

The Redhawks final drive ended in a punt which Honeycutt returned 19 yards to put the Racers at their own 35 yard line with just 1:02 left in the game.. Williams started the drive with a 10-yard rush, then completed a 24-yard pass to Witherspoon, then followed that up with another 12-yard run. 

The Racers picked up two more yards with a Witherspoon rush, then prepared for a field goal attempt from junior kicker Aaron Baum with five seconds left. The Redhawks called a timeout in an attempt to ice Baum, but his kick was still right down the middle. The Racers  completed the 15 point comeback to defeat the Redhawks by a score of 32-31.

Baum said he wanted a field goal from further back if possible, but he’s just glad that he made the final kick.

“I always love a long game winner,” Baum said. “I watched DJ go down and pick up some extra yardage to make it statistically a better kick. It was awesome. I knew it was gonna come down to it when we were out of timeouts.”

Head Coach Dean Hood said this game was a great team win after dealing with the “swings of the game.”

“Our guys were phenomenal with going out and encouraging each other,” Hood said. “When the offense made a mistake, the defense went out. When the defense made a mistake, the offense went out. Special teams played great the whole game. There were some critical plays with every part of our special teams.”

According to ESPN, the Racers had just a 6% chance of winning the game with 2:34 left in the game. Hood said The projections are something that coaches look at but they aren’t always right.

“If you give us six percent, you better watch out,” Hood said. “We look at those things as coaches but really it comes down to necessities. We had to really go for it there. We felt like Baum was really good from 60… Did a great job overall. Malik got us some yards then the offense went out there and got it done.”

Murray State sits at 3-3 on the season following the win over SEMO. The Racers return home on Saturday, Oct. 23, to take on Austin Peay in the annual “Battle of the Border” game on homecoming. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

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