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Bearcats Football Opponent Preview: Murray State

North Carolina Tar Heels v Murray State Racers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Not gonna lie.

Before writing up this preview, the only things I knew about Murray State were 1) it is in Kentucky 2) they were nicknamed the Racers 3) Mick Cronin coached there before he came to Cincinnati.

It turns out that Murray State is a solid FCS football program and will likely be no pushover for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Murray State played its 2020 football season in Spring 2021, like all of the other FBS teams that played last year.

The Racers posted a strong 5-2 overall mark which included an impressive 24-21 road win against FBS nationally ranked Southeast Missouri State.

The Racers opened their 2021 campaign with a 35-0 home win over Mississippi Valley State.

Murray State is coached by Dean Hood, a second year headman whose long and impressive resume includes a stint as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator from 2001-2007. This included Wake’s most recent ACC football championship in 2006. Hood went on to serve for 8 years as head coach at Eastern Kentucky, a team he led to the FBS postseason on three occasions.

The Racers have a balanced attack, gaining nearly as many yards on the ground last year as they did through the air. Their backfield is anchoring by an elusive sophomore tailback named Damonta Witherspoon, who averaged better than 70 yards per game. Senior quarterback Preston Rice is also a contributor in the running game. In the Racers’ opener, Rice went 9 for 15 for 116 yards with an interception. He also gained 81 yards on the ground. Witherspoon gained 49 yards on the ground in limited action. Redshirt freshman Cortezz Jones earned more than 100 yards on the ground in the win.

On defense, the Racers played a bend but don’t break style of defense, surrendering roughly 24 points per game while surrendering just over 300 yards of offense per game (170.9 per game on the ground). The Racers generated a fairly pedestrian pass rush and are led on defensive by senior linebacker Eric Samuta, who averaged nearly 10 tackles per game.

Looking forward to this showdown against our Cincinnati Bearcats.