It’s not often you get the chance to celebrate the two biggest wins of the season within six days of each other, but that’s exactly what happened for the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders this week.
Six days after coming back from a 21-3 deficit to defeat Florida Atlantic, the Blue Raiders went on the road Friday night and beat Marshall 34-24. MTSU had never beaten Marshall at their place and the Herd had won 82 percent of their home games since 1992.
The win lands Middle Tennessee atop the Conference USA East division standings with a 2-0 conference mark. What’s more impressive is that the Blue Raiders were underdogs in both games.
Senior quarterback Brent Stockstill surpassed 10,000 career passing yards in the game. He finished the night with 317 yards and two touchdowns passing. However, it was again what he did with his feet that proved pivotal in the first half.
With his team down 10-3, facing a 2nd-and-15, Stockstill ran for 17 yards, setting up the Blue Raiders inside the Red Zone. Two plays later, Stockstill ran it in for the tying touchdown.
Although Marshall took the ball straight down the field for a touchdown in under a minute following that play, MTSU put up 24 straight points before Marshall sniffed the end zone again.
At one point in the first half, it looked like the Blue Raiders would be overpowered by the Marshall defensive front. Along with holding MTSU to just 21 yards rushing on 18 attempts, the Marshall defense sacked Stockstill five times in the first half.
The second half, however, was a different story. Adjustments were made at halftime because Stockstill was not sacked at all in the second half and the team rushed for 82 yards on 17 carries.
MTSU linebacker Khalil Brooks had two sacks of his own and free safety Jovante Moffatt was all over the field with 17 tackles and a forced fumble.
It does not get any easier for the Blue Raiders as they now turn their attention to Florida International next weekend. The Panthers are averaging 38 points per game this season. While lopsided wins against lowly UMass and Arkansas-Pine Bluff helped those points stats greatly, Panthers head coach Butch Davis has been around a while.
In his second season at FIU, the former Miami Hurricanes and Cleveland Browns head coach has led each of his last four college teams (UNC and FIU) to eight-win seasons.
If this Blue Raider team has taught us anything in the last two weeks, it’s that they’ll be up for whatever challenge faces them next.