September 24, 2015

(STATS) - There were times during the 2013 season when KD Humphries thought about leaving Murray State to play at another school.

Two years later, there's no place the junior would rather be.

One of the most promising quarterbacks in the FCS, Humphries leads the Racers (1-2) into Saturday's Ohio Valley Conference opener against visiting Tennessee Tech more confident than ever.

"The biggest thing about KD is that he's an ambassador for our program and our university," first-year Murray State coach Mitch Stewart said.

Back in 2013, that didn't seem possible.

A season earlier, Humphries saw action in five games as a true freshman, laying a small, yet important, foundation for his college career. However, with Mississippi transfer Maikhail Miller and former South Alabama quarterback CJ Bennett on the 2013 roster, Murray State coaches decided to redshirt Humphries.

"It was tough," he said. "A lot of times I was down but trying to stay strong."

Humphries spent many nights that season calling home to Alabama looking for advice from his family. But he remained at Murray and ultimately realized that watching and absorbing all he can in 2013 helped prepare him to be the leader he's become.

"He stayed the course," said Stewart, who recruited Humphries and worked closely with him as Murray's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before earning the head coaching gig prior to this season.

"I just saw the whole process by just watching," Humphries said. "I was not ready to start (in 2013). There was so much to learn."

A year ago, Humphries played in all 12 games and started the final 10. He threw for 3,488 yards, the third-highest total in school history and most by a first-year starter. His average of 26.6 completions was the highest in the FCS and his 67.4 completion percentage tied for fourth.

Humphries has thrown for at least 300 yards in six of the last seven games, with 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 145.2 rating during that stretch. He enters this week's action as the FCS leader in completions (81) and is second in yards (970).

Under the tutelage of former teammate and current Murray quarterbacks coach Casey Brockman, Humphries prepares to face a Tennessee Tech squad that he completed a career-high 48 passes and threw for 404 yards against in a 30-27 overtime loss last season.

"I think he's a much better player than he was a year ago," Golden Eagles coach Watson Brown said.

While Humphries ranks among the best statistically in the FCS, he'll try to improve his 3-10 record as a starter. There's reason to believe good things might be ahead for Humphries and the Racers.

They led perennial Mid-American Conference power Northern Illinois 7-6 after one quarter before falling 57-26 on Sept. 12. Despite the outcome, Murray recorded 75 more total yards against the Huskies than they allowed in almost knocking off No. 1 Ohio State last weekend.

"I've been very pleased with the way he's taken leadership of the offense and taken leadership of the team," Stewart said. "We're very eager to get him into conference play for his second year."

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AROUND THE BLOCK

The Murray State-Tennessee Tech game could come down to special teams, and Tech linebacker Tra'Darius Goff has a knack for blocking kicks.

After blocking an extra-point attempt in last weekend's 29-22 victory over Mercer, the senior has blocked a PAT, field-goal attempt and punt during his time with the Golden Eagles.

He's also second in the OVC with 11.7 tackles per game.

"Tra Goff is our best defensive player," Brown said. "He's a very important player for us."

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AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

At 32, Stewart is the youngest head coach in both the FCS and FBS. The 65-year-old Brown is one of the oldest.

"He's probably been coaching ball longer than I've been alive," Stewart said of Brown.

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DOING WHAT'S RIGHT

While Austin Peay (0-3) suffered a major blow when it was announced last week that sophomore running back Otis Gerron would end his football career due to concussion-related issues, that decision was well-supported.

"It's definitely the right thing to do," coach Kirby Cannon said. "It's one of those things where we came together with Otis and it was mutually decided that enough was enough. He came here as a non-scholarship player and accomplished his dream - he earned a scholarship, played at the Division I level and played well at that level."

Despite missing two games with concussion-like symptoms in 2014, Gerron recorded a team-high 596 rushing yards. But after suffering a concussion in the Governors' 52-6 loss to Southern Mississippi on Sept. 12, Gerron met with doctors before a decision on his playing future was made.

"We tell our guys all the time to do the right thing," Cannon said. "The right thing here is to not try to talk him into playing, not try to convince him he's at less risk than somebody else."

Cannon has left the door open for Gerron to remain with the program in some capacity.

Mired in a 33-game road losing streak that's the longest active one in Division I, the Governors visit Eastern Kentucky (1-1) on Saturday.

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NO PUSHOVER

Southeast Missouri (1-2) is 15-0 against non-Division I teams during its FCS tenure, but coach Tom Matukewicz and his bunch had their eyes opened when Saturday's opponent, Division II Shorter University, fell short of an upset with an 18-10 loss to Kennesaw State last weekend.

Located in Rome, Ga., Shorter was in position to try for a winning field goal but a botched snap led to a fumble that Kennesaw returned for a touchdown as time expired.

The Redhawks took notice.

"They're a dangerous team," Matukewicz said. "They run the triple-option like Navy does. They got our attention."

SEMO takes the field for first time since it announced that leading rusher DeMichael Jackson would miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury.

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