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In the FCS Huddle: Murray State's offense back to the races

By Sean Shapiro, FCS Assistant

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It took a couple games for running back Mike Harris and quarterback Casey Brockman to get on the field last season, but they've been running full-speed ever since.

The leaders of Murray State's spread offense, Harris and Brockman have helped turn head coach Chris Hatcher's vision into a dangerous reality for opposing defenses.

"This is really the only offense I've run," Hatcher said. "We have some good skill players and we found a quarterback to run our system. And with smaller offensive linemen, we like to take advantage of their quickness.

"I guess it's appropriate since we're more known as a basketball school, because it's like playing basketball on grass."

Taking a page out of the fast-paced, back-and-forth tempo of the basketball court, Murray State used the spread offense to nearly double its point (200 to 397) and yard (230 ypg to 450) totals from a season earlier in Hatcher's first year at the helm.

Pointing the way for the appropriately named Racers are Harris and Brockman.

After starting the season on the bench, both players earned starting roles by the midpoint of the season and unleashed a basketball-like scoring performance against Missouri State.

Harris rushed for 212 yards on 30 carries, while Brockman answered back with 570 yards and eight total touchdowns.

"When we scored 72 against Missouri State, I guess you could say they really bought into the system," Hatcher said.

Any question whether they embraced the spread - forgetting the former pro- style, I-formation offense - could be easily answered by the 38.4 points the Racers averaged over the final five games of their 6-5 campaign - their first winning season since 2004.

Now with a full offseason to prepare and the confidence of their coach, Brockman and Harris are ready to guide the Racers' offense at a potential record-breaking pace.

"It's really fun, especially to run the offense we run," Brockman said. "Going no huddle and trying to run 100 plays, it's just a blast."

And while he's having fun quickly dissecting defenses, opponents are gasping for breath right before his eyes.

"You really do see the difference, they kind of can't change personnel while we're going every couple seconds," Brockman said. "You can really see they're getting winded, I guess it's just a tough offense to prepare for."

In order to prepare for such a quick atmosphere in games, the Racers' practices often are shorter than most teams, as both the offense and defense are usually sprinting the entire session.

"We sprint everywhere, all it does is helps on and off the field," Harris said. "Everybody can be prepared to keep up with what we got going."

Other coaches have taken note of the Racers' offensive firepower, and picked Murray State to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference and tabbed Brockman their preseason offensive player of the year. He's also a candidate for the 2011 Walter Payton Award, which honors the FCS' outstanding player, is presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com.

"I just hope we continue to get better game-by-game and that's enough to win," Brockman said. "I don't really have an individual goal, it's just one of those things if we're winning I'm happy."

Likely standing in the way of Murray State and Brockman's happiness is Jacksonville State, a team that defeated the Racers, 40-34, last season - one game before Brockman became the starter.

Murray State will host Jacksonville State on Oct. 1, a game which could define the rest of the OVC season.

It also could prove how fast the Racers have actually been running.

08/09 10:05:46 ET



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Samuel G. Freedman's "Breaking The Line" vividly recreates the world of black college football in the civil rights era with a gripping chronicle of the 1967 season for coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State and Alonzo S. "Jake" Gaither at Florida A&M.
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