Football gets in the win column


Sophomore running back Demonts Witherspoon taes the handoff from sophomore quarterback Jayden Stinson. Photo by Rebeca Mertins-Chiodini/The News.

Jakob Milani, Sports Editor

After starting the season 0-8, the Murray State football team picked up its first win against Tennessee State on Saturday, Oct. 29. 

Thanks to a combined 194-yard rushing performance from the Racers’ offense and five sacks from their defense, the Racers defeated the Tigers 19-3. 

One of the leading rushers, freshman running back Cortezz Jones, spoke postgame about the Racers’ first win. He said he’s grateful to be with the team and for coming away with the win.

“It was amazing,” Jones said. “Coach always explains to us that it’s about the faith in the finish. When we say ‘Racers on one,’ we’re a family, a brotherhood. We believe in each other.”

The Tigers started the game with a 33-yard pass from junior quarterback Draylin Ellis to sophomore running back Jalen Rouse. Despite the big gain, they ended up punting just a few plays later.

On their next drive, the Tigers had some big plays from Ellis, who found freshman wide receiver Karate Bensen and graduate tight end Josh Trueheart for a combined 33-yard gain.

A couple plays later, Rouse took a 22-yard run to the Murray State 39-yard line, and Ellis followed it up with a 16-yard pass to senior wide receiver JJ Holloman, putting the Tigers in field goal range.

The two teams lined up for the field goal, and senior defensive lineman Cam Brown blocked the attempt, leaving the Tigers and Racers scoreless after one quarter.

Halfway through the second quarter, the game was still tied at 0. The Tigers looked to get some points as Rouse started their drive with a 20-yard run.

Ellis found Holloman open up the middle for a 21-yard gain, then threw a 14-yard pass to junior wide receiver Da’shon Davis, putting the Tigers back in field goal range. This time, the kick was up and good, putting Tennessee State up 3-0.

On the Racers’ next drive, sophomore running back Demonta Witherspoon and Jones carried the load for the offense, combining for 70 yards rushing in the drive.

Senior wide receiver name? capped it off with a 5-yard rushing touchdown. Though they missed the point-after try, the Racers were up 6-3 heading into halftime. 

It wasn’t until Murray State’s second drive of the third quarter that the team was able to get the ball moving again. Witherspoon took a handoff 10 yards, and sophomore quarterback Jayden Stinson completed a 40-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Taylor Shields.

After being held to fourth down, senior kicker Aaron Baum walked out and made a 47-yard field goal, putting the Racers up 9-3.

The Racers’ defense held the Tigers to a turnover on downs, and they took advantage with another 41-yard field goal from Baum, going up 12-3 by the end of the third quarter.

Stinson went back to work on the Racers’ next drive, finding Shields for a 10-yard gain to move the Racers into Tennessee State territory. 

After a pass interference call on the Tigers’ defense, Jones rushed 14 yards for Murray State’s second touchdown of the game. With the extra point up and good, the Racers led the Tigers 19-3.

With time starting to wind down, the Tigers did their best to put a drive together, starting with an 18-yard pass from Ellis to sophomore tight end Jytireus Smith.

A few small rushes and a pass interference call on the Racers moved the Tigers up to the Murray State 17-yard line. From there, Ellis dropped back to throw but had his pass intercepted by senior defensive back Quinaz Turner.

The interception ultimately sealed the game for the Racers, beating the Tigers 19-3.

Stinson completed eight passes for 89 yards in the win. Witherspoon finished with 99 yards rushing on 28 attempts. Jones had 88 yards rushing and a touchdown on just nine attempts. Turner had five tackles along with his interception. 

Sophomore outside linebacker Cade Shuppard finished the game with three sacks for the Racers. After the game, he said it’s great to finally have everything go their way and get the win.

“It just feels really good,” Shuppard said. “The whole year, we’ve put in so much effort—the whole team. And not everything has gone our way, but for us to just play a very good defensive game to have faith in the finish, it helped us finish out the game.”

Head Coach Dean Hood also spoke postgame about how well the team played. He said he felt very blessed after all the work the team has put in to get the win.

“The horse is made ready for battle, but victory belongs to the Lord,” Hood said. “Something I’ve learned during this is that winning the game is a gift from God. In my 35 years of doing this, I couldn’t be prouder of a football team. These guys are winners. We may have been down in our record, but they have never let up.”

After its first win of the season, Murray State takes a week off, returning to Roy Stewart Stadium on Nov. 12 to take on the Robert Morris University Colonials. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.


[email protected]