Cincinnati Bearcats ready for the first ever matchup against Murray State

The differences between Murray State University and the University of Cincinnati soccer teams are obvious.

Murray State, in Murray, Kentucky, about a five-hour drive southwest of Cincinnati’s main Clifton campus, is an FCS school that participates in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The defending champion of the American Athletic Conference, Cincinnati, remains outside of the FBS Power Five conferences but is the top ranked Group of Five team in the country.

“A lot of people may not know exactly who they are, what conference they’re attending, this, that, and that, but that’s not a big deal,” said UC coach Luke Fickell. “I think it started for us at camp. We didn’t take anything for granted and didn’t leave anything to chance. It doesn’t matter who you play against.”

Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell directs the drills during practice at the Higher Ground Training Facility in West Harrison, Indiana on Monday, August 9, 2021.

Some of the Cincinnati players may not know much about Murray State, but Murray State coach Dean Hood knows all about the No. 7/8 (Associated Press / Coaches) Bearcats who finished the season with a sovereign 49-14 last week. opened victory over rival Miami University.

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“First of all, they’re a real top 10,” said Hood. “This isn’t a top 10, let’s bring in one of the Group of Five schools to check it out. They are a legitimate top 10 team. “

National rankings, speed, size, and caliber of athletes are other obvious differences between the two teams, but the biggest difference is in the numbers.

“The other problem with playing an FBS opponent is depth,” said Hood. “You have 85 scholarships compared to 63. … In the pure numbers, the situation with the upper scholarship limit is somewhat different.”

Dean Hood was hired as Murray State's head coach in December 2019, but didn't train the team in a game until February 2021 due to the pandemic.  He led the Racers to a 5-2 record in his opening campaign and they're favorites to win the OVC in 2021.

Despite the many differences between the two teams, Murray State and Cincinnati have one thing in common: their preparation.

“You don’t prepare any other way. It really doesn’t matter who you play against, ”Hood said. “When you play an NAIA school, you play a Group of Five, you play a Power Five, you play a (Division) I-AA, an FCS level team, the preparation is the same. You have your five days and they’re an opponent. You look at how they structurally set up and get your guys together based on staff and all that stuff and go out there and practice and play the game. It’s the same approach no matter who you play against. “

The Racers and Bearcats will compete against each other for the first time in the history of the two programs on Saturday in the Nippert Stadium (3:30 p.m. on ESPN +).

Our first look at the Murray State Racers

RECORD: The Racers opened their season last week with a 35-0 home win over FCS team Mississippi Valley State. It was Murray State’s first shutout since 2011.

EXECUTIVE TRAINER: Hood was hired as the 19th head coach in the program’s history in December 2019, after serving for three years on Mark Stoops’ staff at the University of Kentucky as coordinator of the special teams, while serving as the outside linebackers (2017) and the defensive backs (2018) trained -19).

Dean Hood was hired as the 19th head coach in Murray state history in December 2019 after serving with Mark Stoops as the special teams coordinator at the University of Kentucky for three years.

Last season, Hood led the Racers to a 5-0 start, their first win (5-2) since 2011 and their best OVC record (5-2) since 2005.

A native of Ashtabula, Ohio, 57, spent eight seasons as the head coach with Eastern Kentucky (2008-15).

KEY FIGURES: Junior quarterback Preston Rice was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week after scoring four touchdowns last week, all on the ground.

The Racers had 455 yards of attack against the Mississippi Valley, including 307 yards. It was the first 300-plus rushing yard game for the Racers since 2018 and only the second against a Division I opponent since 2011.

Murray State's Preston Rice, 5, is looking for a player who will be released on Saturday May 3rd.

Mississippi Valley only managed 162 yards of attack, the fewest a Racers defense against a Division I opponent had allowed since 2004.

Murray State is led defensively by senior linebacker Jacobi Hearn and senior lineman Kameron Petty.

SIDE FACT: Although Saturday will be Cincinnati’s very first encounter with Murray State, the Bearcats stand 3-0 against Fickell’s OVC teams, including a 2-0 win against Austin Peay, the Racers’ fiercest rivals.

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