One of Chris Hatcher’s favorite fighters was Mike Tyson.
On Saturday, he needs to be the guy standing across from him.
With Murray State slated to take on FBS power Florida State tomorrow in Tallahassee, Hatcher knows there’s only one chance for his Racers to shock the college football world — withstand the Seminoles’ bruising punches.
“(Tyson) would come out to the ring, and he would try to knock you out in the first round and be done with it,” Hatcher said. “When we go play Florida State, we have to be the guy that withstands that initial blow, and gets to the third or fourth round. We have to get to those later rounds if we want to beat them.
“If we are able to overcome that start from them, and hang on for as long as you possibly can, you can get into the second half within striking distance and then anything can happen.”
While the Racers are as talented as anyone at the FCS level, Florida State presents a different challenge entirely.
Boasting what many believe is the most talented defensive line in the country, along with senior quarterback EJ Manuel — a Heisman Trophy hopeful — the Seminoles’ first punch can be a killer.
That’s why the Racers have to keep things simple on Saturday.
“We will just go out there and execute as good as we can, and hopefully we can hang in there long enough to have a chance in the end,” Hatcher said. “We aren’t very complicated anyway, and if you look around, the best teams in all of football are very simple schematically.”
In staying simple, Hatcher and offensive coordinator Mitch Stewart said the Racers will have to get rid of the ball quick, run the football north-to-south and protect the ball.
Turnovers and penalties won’t win the Racers any points against Florida State, and neglecting to capitalize on the Seminoles’ mistakes won’t do so either.
Stewart said the Racers will stick to a base offense tomorrow. So simple, in fact, that even his players are wanting to do something a little different to mix things up.
“It’s funny, because we have been and will continue to be so simple in what we do offensively,” Stewart said. “The guys get kind of bored with it, and they want to do something else or run a trick play, just anything.
“My biggest concern in any game, especially a game like this one though, is going out there and putting a kid in a position where he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I want them to at least know what they are doing all the time. They might not do it well, or the may at some point get out-athleted or something like that, but that’s my biggest concern for the offense.”
Murray State does have a offensive security blanket of sorts in All-American quarterback Casey Brockman, who has played in FBS games before.
His counterpart on Saturday, however, knows his way around college football’s upper echelon too.
Manuel, a 6-foot-5, 238 pound dual-threat quarterback, saw action for the first time as a freshman, backing up now Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder.
Manuel was given the starting job full-time as a junior in 2011, passing for 18 touchdowns, running for four more while throwing only eight interceptions, leading the Seminoles to a come-back victory against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Not only is Manuel talented, but he has plenty of protection up front.
The Florida State offensive line averages out at 6-foot-5, 319 pounds, and can go three-deep at almost every spot, giving senior running back Chris Thompson plenty of daylight to run through.
Thompson was the Offensive MVP of the 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but broke his back six games into the 2011 campaign.
Healthy and the undisputed emotional leader of a young crop of Seminole tailbacks, Thompson is just another weapon on the Florida State offense.
He still might not be the most potent runner, however.
Devonta Freeman, a 5-foot-8, 209-pound bruiser appears as the future of Florida State football and should take the starting running back job from Thompson, if he hasn’t already.
Meanwhile, the receiving tandem of Rashad Greene and Rodney Smith — who each led the Seminoles in yards and catches last season — are expected to be prominently featured against the Racers.
Green is a shifty, speedy receiver, while Smith stands 6-foot-6 and can get to a pass nearly anywhere on the field — or above it.
“(Florida State) is big and fast,” defensive coordinator Ashley Anders said. “In my previous experience, when you play a team of this caliber, it’s their depth that will hurt you.
“They are able to run guys in and out, where the athletic ability does not fall off a whole lot. You are just continuously playing against very skilled athletes, and that’s something we have to overcome right there.”