Tough Middle Tennessee team outlasts Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic

Sep 30, 2018 at 08:33 am by joelabarker


Much of the discussion about Middle Tennessee’s game this week was focused on Lane Kiffin’s return to the state of Tennessee. Kiffin was hired at Florida Atlantic prior to the 2017 season and led the Owls to an 8-0 record versus Conference USA opponents last season.

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Someone forgot to notify the Blue Raiders that Saturday night’s homecoming for Kiffin was supposed to end with another Conference USA victory for the former Tennessee Volunteers head coach.

Middle Tennessee spoiled Kiffin’s return by coming back from a 21-3 deficit to win 25-24, scoring a touchdown followed by a two-point conversion inside the game’s final minute.

“That’s the best one I’ve been a part of,” said quarterback Brent Stockstill following the upset win. “It was the definition of a team win,” he continued.

Early in the second half, it looked like Florida Atlantic would add another touchdown when a Stockstill pass was tipped by a teammate and intercepted by Florida Atlantic’s Rashad Smith. But Middle Tennessee’s defense proved the second half wouldn’t be like the first when it held all-conference running back Devin Singletary to four yards on the next three plays, forcing the Owls to punt.

Stockstill continued, “We played tough.” That toughness would be shown by the quarterback on the Blue Raiders final drive of the night. Facing a fourth down play with two yards to gain at the FAU 17, Stockstill ran for seven yards and took a punishing hit at the end of the play.

“I’m not really that good of a runner, but I love to play football,” Stockstill said. It wasn’t his first successful run of the evening. The senior quarterback had 56 yards rushing on 10 attempts. One of those attempts ended in a turnover at the FAU 42-yard line. “From that point on I said I’m just going to try to run through people,” Stockstill said of the fumble.

Toughness was the key for Middle Tennessee all night. Senior safety Jovante Moffatt, who led the team in tackles last season despite playing through pain with two torn labrums, saw his first action of the 2018 season and he made every hit count.

“I haven’t tacked anybody since the bowl game (in December 2017),” Moffat said following the game. He continued, “It was fun to be back with the guys.”

Moffat made two of the defensive plays of the night. With FAU already in field goal range, Moffatt blew up what would have likely been a game-changing play when he hit wide receiver Willie Wright in the open field, forcing FAU to try a field goal.

Moffatt’s other big play was the game-sealing interception with less than 30 seconds remaining in the contest.

Following the game, MTSU Head Coach Rick Stockstill was proud of his team’s toughness. “This was a true testament of your mental and physical toughness,” said the elder Stockstill. “Those guys kept battling, kept fighting, kept competing and found a way to get it done,” he continued. 

Notable Moments

In the first half, all-conference RB, Devin Singletary extended his consecutive touchdown streak to 18-games, extending his Conference USA record. With his second touchdown of the night, Singletary passed DeAngelo Williams for the most career touchdowns in Conference USA history. He’s just a junior.

It wasn’t all positive for Singletary as his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced the Owls to punt from their own endzone, setting up Middle Tennessee’s game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. Singletary finished with 118 yards on 34 carries.

MTSU’s next opponent: Marshall

It’s a short week for the Blue Raiders. They will travel to Huntington, WV to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd next Friday night. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. It will start at 6:30 pm.

Marshall won 38-10 at MTSU last season in the blackout game. Quarterback Brent Stockstill was out for that game, however. His being healthy this week should be a positive for the Blue Raiders.

Quote of the night: “This team deserves this school and this community to support it. Come watch these guys play, man!” – MTSU Head Coach Rick Stockstill

All photos by Tina L. Barker

Joel A. Barker is a sports writing minister. 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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