Miller has early impact for Racers

Murray State quarterback Maikhail Miller throws a pass during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Murray State on Aug. 31. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Murray State quarterback Maikhail Miller throws a pass during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Murray State on Aug. 31. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

MURRAY, Ky. – Maikhail Miller. with the help of some trickery. has already experienced an ESPN moment.

Miller, a first-year starting quarterback for Murray State University, caught a touchdown pass from his wide receiver, Jeremy Harness, on a throwback pass in the Racers’ Aug. 31 season opener at Missouri.

The play, called “60 Duck,” worked to perfection and gave Murray State a short-lived 14-13 lead against its SEC opponent.

It was selected No. 8 in ESPN’s Top 10 college football plays of Week 1.

“It’s a good trick play,” said Miller, the former Itawamba AHS standout QB, who transferred to Murray State this summer from Ole Miss. “I wasn’t expecting to make it on ESPN.”

While Miller’s time in the Bluegrass State has been brief – he arrived on campus Aug. 1 – he has certainly made the most of it. He came in a couple of days before the opening of fall practice and won the starting quarterback job over another Northeast Mississippi player, Corinth’s Parks Frazier.

“I’ve made good progress just getting plays in and getting a chemistry with the guys,” Miller said. “Just getting everything done so quick, that was the hardest part.”

Miller decided late in the summer that his quest to become an SEC quarterback had come to an end. He was No. 3 on the depth chart at Ole Miss following spring practice. A highly-touted run-pass quarterback coming out of high school, Miller was ready to play … especially headed into his third year of college.

His love of baseball also influence his decision to make a move. He played in New Albany’s Cotton States League this summer.

“I decided at the end of my summer term at Ole Miss that it was time for me to move on,” Miller said. “I wanted to go somewhere where I could play quick. I also wanted to go somewhere and play baseball.”

Ole Miss quarterbacks coach Dan Werner directed Miller to the FCS member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Murray State coach Chris Hatcher, a former college quarterback, is confident Miller is the right choice to direct the Racers’ no-huddle, spread attack.

“We’re very simple offensively,” he said. “Maikhail’s got to continue to develop and go through his reads and be confident in throwing the ball before the guy’s open.

“Completion percentage-wise he’s not as good as what we’re accustomed to but he can run the ball.”

Through three games as the starter, Miller has completed 57 of 86 passes for 657 yards and nine touchdowns. He has thrown three interceptions, all in the season opener.

As a rusher, he has 95 yards on 20 carries.

Game-winning TD

Miller had his finest hour as a Racer in last week’s 41-38 comeback win against Missouri State. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 272 yards and five touchdowns.

The final TD came on a fourth-and-goal from the Missouri State 15 with 23.8 seconds remaining. Miller hooked up with senior wide receiver Walter Powell on a fade in the back right corner of the end zone.

“We work on the fade ball every day in practice,” Miller said. “We knew we could beat them with a one-on-one matchup.”

Miller threw four touchdown strikes to Powell that covered 4, 15, 37 and 66 yards. He also hooked up with Janaski Davis for a 52-yard score.

The 4-yard scoring pass came off a trick play and gave Murray State the lead, 34-31, with 5:38 remaining.

“Maikhail made some big plays at the end, made some big throws, made a couple of big runs, made a good read on zone read to pick up the first down,” Hatcher said. “That’s the reason he’s our quarterback.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com