In addition to directing the offense, finding open receivers and scoring points, Murray State quarterback KD Humphries believes that he has one more duty: Be the most positive, enthusiastic fellow in Murray, Ky.
“I try to show the guys that every day in practice is a beautiful day,” Humphries said. “Rain, snow, sleet, cold, 100-degree practices, even 90-degree practices are beautiful days. We’re going to go out and work hard.
“I want to show these guys that, hey, we’re having fun. We don’t have too much longer to do this, so we better have some fun during the week and then go have some fun on Saturday, because Saturday is our day of celebration.”
The Racers have had little to celebrate most Saturdays, sitting at 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference, as they prepare for Tennessee State (4-4, 1-4) in Nashville. But Humphries sees progress, despite the record.
“We handle adversity so much better,” he said. “Older guys who’ve been in the program are stepping up, trying to be leaders, trying not to let the team fall apart. Everybody just wants to be together. Young freshmen, guys that haven’t played all year, are having to step up.
“They go from just practicing to practicing with a purpose. It goes all the way down, from the head coach to the walk-ons to the trainers, everybody’s happy to be around each other and having fun.”
Humphries has had as much fun, and success, as anyone on the team. The 6-3, 225-pound redshirt junior from Montgomery, Ala., leads the FCS in passing yardage (2,807) and passing yards per game (350.9), and is second in total offense (363.8) — gaudy numbers that he would gladly trade for more wins.
“It’s a big accomplishment for me and my teammates,” he said. “But I try not to focus on it. Those are things that just come from playing the game.”
Humphries, whose given name is KeDarius, directs an offense that’s second in the OVC in total yardage per game (475.3), behind only No. 1-ranked Jacksonville State, and averages 29.5 points per game. But the Racers allow 35.4 points per game, 101st nationally, and 493 yards per game, 118th out of 123 teams in FCS.
Humphries’ statistical high-water mark came against Tennessee Tech, when he completed 43 of 57 passes for 491 yards and three touchdowns. But four fumbles and two missed field goals doomed the Racers in a 31-29 loss.
“We’ve lost some tough games,” Racers quarterbacks coach Casey Brockman said, “but I think he’s done a really good job of overcoming that and keeping guys up. He comes in on Sundays and recognizes the mistakes he’s made and areas where he can get better, and he tries to make sure everybody continues to improve.”
Humphries started the last 10 games a year ago and threw for 3,488 yards and 27 touchdowns, while completing 67.4 percent of his passes. He also threw a dozen interceptions and vowed to cut down on turnovers, particularly in the red zone.
This season, his completion percentage is down a tick (63.4%), but he and Brockman believe that he is a better player. He has thrown just five interceptions, three of which came in a loss to Northern Illinois of the Mid-American Conference, which defeated 2oth-ranked and previously unbeaten Toledo on Tuesday night, 32-27.
“Ball security is his biggest area of improvement,” Brockman said. “Last year, he made some bad decisions and forced some throws. His decision making, especially on third down, has gotten better. He understands that everything doesn’t have to be a 20- or 30-yard throw downfield. There’s nothing wrong with checking down to the running back and taking what the defense gives you.”
Humphries is determined to enjoy the final few weeks of the season, as the Racers conclude with games against traditional OVC power Eastern Kentucky and No. 1 Jacksonville State.
“We still have some great games and opponents ahead of us,” he said. “Just trying to keep the guys as high as we can and tell them, there’s still a lot that we can gain from this season, a lot of experience and playing time left. We can use that to come back next year with a fighting effort.”