3 Big Things from MTSU's victory over UT-Martin

Sep 09, 2018 at 08:28 am by joelabarker

MTSU Blue Raiders

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders hosted UT-Martin at Floyd Stadium on Saturday night. MTSU won the home opener over the Skyhawks 61-37.

Both teams came into Saturday night’s game off of lopsided losses to SEC programs in week one (MTSU lost 35-7 at Vanderbilt and UT-Martin lost 51-14 at Missouri).

Here are three big things we learned about MTSU in the Blue Raiders home opener.

MTSU has some offensive weapons

Senior quarterback Brent Stockstill had many offensive weapons that helped him power a 484-yard effort in total offense. Stockstill connected with junior wide receiver CJ Windham on the Blue Raiders first two touchdowns of the night. Windham ended up with 86-yards on three receptions. Windham wasn’t the only receiver to have a big night, however.

Stockstill connected with Brad Anderson for a game-high 141-yards on six receptions. Former walk-on, Patrick Smith caught three touchdowns amassing 87-yards receiving as well.

“It was fun to get those big plays again. It’s what gets our team excited and it gets everybody in the crowd excited,” said Stockstill after the game. He added, “It was a group effort. We were really efficient.”

The ground game never really got going

With starting running back Tavares Thomas out with an injury, the Blue Raiders turned to redshirt freshman Chaton Mobley for the bulk of the carries Saturday night. Finishing with 59 yards on 12 carries, Mobley filled in admirably for MTSU, scoring two touchdowns.  Despite some success on the ground, the running game didn’t live up to the head coach’s expectations.

“The running game didn’t work last week, and it didn’t work this week,” said head coach Rick Stockstill following the game. He continued, “We know you’ve got to run the ball to win most games, and we’ve got to find a way to get better at that.” Coach Stockstill continued, “I thought Chaton was decisive in his runs. A couple times he hesitated a little bit instead of putting his foot in the ground and going, but for the most part, I thought he did a really nice job.” 

MTSU’s defensive effort was disappointing overall

Despite the decisive 24-point victory, the MTSU defense gave up 37 points and 460 yards of total offense. The Blue Raiders defense gave up eight plays of 15+ yards. Three of those eight plays went for 30+ yards.

“We missed so many tackles. I was really disappointed in how our defense played,” said Coach Stockstill.  

After two huge momentum plays on offense and special teams put the Blue Raiders up 40-17 late in the third quarter, the Skyhawks came back and brought the game to within 10 points with just over six minutes remaining in the game. But on a night when the defense was disappointing overall, it was a defensive play that sticks out as one of the plays of the night.

With 3:27 left in the ballgame and UT-Martin knocking on the door to bring MTSU’s lead back to within 10, freshman safety Gregory Grate intercepted Skyhawks QB Dresser Winn at the 3-yard line and took it the length of the field for a 97-yard interception that effectively ended the game.   

Notable moment

The Blue Raiders scored their first punt return for a touchdown since Kevin Byard returned one against Old Dominion in 2014. Wayne Parks took the botched 11-yard punt 35 yards for the score midway through the third quarter.

MTSU’s next opponent: Georgia

Next week, MTSU is back on the road against their second SEC foe. The Blue Raiders will travel to Athens, Ga. to face the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs who throttled No. 24 South Carolina 41-17 Saturday.

The game is scheduled for 5:15 CT and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Quote of the night: “You’d like to be balanced, but the bottom line is we’re going to do whatever we have to do to win the game. If it’s throwing for 400 yards or rushing for 400 yards, the bottom line is to win,” MTSU Head Coach Rick Stockstill said.

All photos by Tina Barker

Joel A. Barker is a sports writing preacher. Joel was a longtime Featured Columnist covering College Football for The Bleacher Report before beginning his pursuit in pastoral ministry studies. Follow Joel on Twitter @joelabarker. 

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