After spending more than a month trying to build a brand of football -- specifically a balanced offense, a seemingly turnover-torrid defense and an overall relentless effort -- Murray State could only watch as things cracked at the seams in last Saturday's Ohio Valley Conference opener at UT Martin.
It was 60 painful game minutes for the Racers, who:
• Generated less than 20 total yards rushing.
• Allowed freshman-redshirt quarterback John Bachus III to orchestrate more than 90 offensive plays (and 53 in the first half).
• Got roughed up in the turnover battle 3-0.
• Generally got molly-womped in every phase of the game.
Three drive-extending defensive penalties also helped the Skyhawks to a 21-0 lead ... one these Racers had no interest in overcoming en route to a 40-7 defeat.
Fifth-year MSU coach Mitch Stewart hasn't shied away from the frustration or the embarrassment, diving into it at length in his weekly presser.
But at the top of his to-do list? Stewart spent the past 48 hours following Saturday's debacle reviewing the overall lack of discipline within his team.
And it's something he's more than happy to correct sooner rather than later.
"My fault for not catching it sooner," Stewart said. "But the great thing is, we caught it now. It appeared at a time when all of our goals, all of the things that we want to achieve back there in that (main) room are still obtainable. Boy, especially in this league right now. All bets are off right now in this league.
"But, and I've said this a bunch ... in any game, whether you win that game or you lose that game, you either let that game define you, or you let it develop you. We're going to make sure that this loss ... develops us."
Stewart notes he should've seen the slack in the smaller details: unkempt lockers, missed classes and assignments, guys parking in visitor's spots at the Curris Center for pre-game meals, run-of-the-mill practice drills.
Typical and common mistakes, but attitudes a team can ill-afford after a league opponent runs roughshod, and the overall goal is to either win a conference championship or make the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2002.
"My dad did send me a text (after the game), and I thought it was pretty good," Stewart said.
"Giving up on your goals because of one setback is liking slashing all three tires because of one flat.'
"We talked about that with the team, and we thought that was pretty good. Any time you've got a flat, you don't slash the other three tires that're good. You go to the shop, and you get that tire fixed."
With "accountability" and "attention to detail" the two biggest focuses for this week, Murray State's next opponent -- Eastern Illinois University -- is 0-5 and 0-1 in the OVC after falling to Tennessee Tech last Saturday, 40-29.
It's a Panthers team craving its first victory of the year, and one squad that could be headed in the right direction offensively after scoring an average 4.9 ppg in the first month of the season.
In the loss to TTU, EIU starting quarterback Harry Woodbery attempted a school-record 68 passes (three off the OVC record), connected with eight different receivers and passed for more than 330 yards with two touchdowns.
"He moved the ball around a bit on Saturday as we were chasing points, but he's obviously got a big arm," noted first-year EIU coach Adam Cushing. "Makes good decisions with it. But in his first action of the year (against Chattanooga), he was running the football, so we've got to keep that as part of our football game. We have to make sure that we're tough to defend in the run game, as well. We are going to mold to the kind of the concepts that he likes. He's always got an opportunity to kind of look at the game plan as the week goes along, and highlight things that he does like and cross off things that he just doesn't feel great about out there."
The running game hasn't been particularly effective for the Panthers this season (leading rusher and former quarterback Johnathan Brantley has already transferred), but Cushing does have converted-wideout Jaelin Benefield as a top option (38 carries, 153 yards).
The Panthers have also played a rigorous schedule thus far: Chattanooga, Indiana State, Indiana, Illinois State and Tennessee Tech. Defensively, they've limited opponents to less than 380 yards per game.
Did you know?
• MSU quarterback Preston Rice is still eighth in the FCS in completion percentage (69.0%), following Saturday's 17-for-29 effort against UT Martin.
• Despite coming away with no turnovers against the Skyhawks, MSU is still 15th in country in turnovers gained (10).
• Eastern Illinois' football alumni includes former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current NFL analyst Tony Romo (1999-2002), current New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (quarterback, 1983-86), current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.
• Before EIU was in the OVC, the Panthers faced Murray State in the opening round of the 1986 FCS playoffs (and won 28-21). They were a member of the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference, where football was the only men's sponsored sport. The GCAC dissolved in 1992, with most of its founders bouncing to the Missouri Valley.
Murray State vs. Eastern Illinois
Time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Venue: Roy Stewart Stadium (16,800)
MSU Head Coach: Mitch Stewart (17-32, 5th year)
EIU Head Coach: Adam Cushing (0-5, 1st year)
Last Met: Oct. 6, 2018 (MSU won 48-41)
All-Time Series: EIU leads 19-15
Listen Live: Froggy 103.7 FM (PxP: Neal Bradley, Color: Jeff Waters)
Follow Live: ESPN+, @RacersFootball, @PgriffithMSU, @dreamarlowe85
By the Numbers
PPG 28.4 9.6
PA 35.0 30.6
YPG 395.4 256.8
RYPG 146.2 97.6
PYPG 249.2 159.2
DYPG 418.6 372.2
RYA 150.2 132.2
PYA 268.4 240.0
TO Diff. plus-3 minus-4