Senior Day at Middle Tennessee meant a lot more than usual on Saturday.
It was not only fan-favorite Brent Stockstill’s final regular season game at home, but just after kickoff, Marshall defeated Florida International in Miami making Middle Tennessee the champions of Conference USA’s East division before it had even run a play on offense.
Suddenly, the winner of the game between MTSU and UAB would become the host for next weekend’s Conference USA Championship Game.
The Blue Raiders were up for the challenge, winning 27-3 on the regular season’s final weekend.
MORE PHOTOS: MTSU Senior Day Festivities
Brent Stockstill shines again
Stockstill was near perfect in the first half. Completed 13 of 16 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, the senior quarterback set the tone early in the season finale against the best team in the conference.
“They’re a really good defense,” said Stockstill. “Any good defense you gotta come up with some ways to move the ball.” He continued, “Some guys made plays.”
The quarterback finished 22 of 29 with 261 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Linebackers Khalil Brooks & DQ Thomas combine for 4.5 sacks
The defense turned what was supposed to be a close game into a dominant result.
With seven sacks on defense, Middle Tennessee’s defense held UAB to just 89 total yards on offense. Linebackers DQ Thomas and Khalil Brooks combined for 4.5 of those sacks, adding to their team-high season sacks totals.
“We have a lot of energy on defense,” said Brooks. We don’t care about where the ball is at. It can be on the two-yard line or the goal line, we just play.”
It seemed like the Blue Raider defenders were in the backfield on every play as they overwhelmed UAB’s offensive line throughout the contest.
Zack Dobson put on a show
Freshman wide receiver Zack Dobson showed his electrifying potential on multiple plays. The speedy athlete had a 45-yard touchdown run and a 12-yard touchdown reception, but it was his hurdle over a UAB defender that brought oohs and aahs from the Blue Raiders faithful early in the third quarter.
“The first two times he tackled me, I noticed he went low,” said the Dobson. “I was like I’m not going to let it happen again. So, the last time he dropped low early, so I had to go ahead and take flight.”
Dobson is filling the void left by the loss of Brad Anderson four weeks ago. In seven games this season, Dobson has 290 all-purpose yards, averaging just over 41 yards per contest. He had two receiving touchdowns on the season prior to Saturday’s two touchdown effort.
Conference USA East Division Champs
Following the game, MTSU was officially recognized as winners of Conference USA’s East division. While fans cheered, and confetti rained down on the players, thoughts had already moved to next week’s Conference USA Championship Game against the same UAB team.
“We know how tough it is to beat that team, let alone beat them twice,” said Stockstill following the game. “We’re all excited for the win and we’re excited for the chance to play next week.”
It’s hard to defeat a team twice in the same season. It may be cliché, but it has proven true many times. Middle Tennessee’s task is even more unique as it will need to defeat the same team twice in back-to-back weeks.
Stockstill, a Siegel grad, recalled his high school experience of playing teams multiple times in a season.
“I played Blackman, Oakland, and Riverdale three times in the regular season and then had to beat them all again in the playoffs. So, I’ve kind of been there before. It’s definitely tougher,” he recalled. “It’s hard to win twice so we’ll have to be prepared.”
Rick Stockstill is a happy father and coach
Head Coach Rick Stockstill has had plenty of success as MTSU’s head football coach over his 13 seasons on the job. But it was obvious that this team led by his son at quarterback has been special.
“You watch how he plays, how he leads, how tough he is, and the throws that he makes, he’s a special player,” the elder Stockstill said of his son. “I’m happy for him because of what he’s done and what he’s meant to the program.”
Coach Stockstill continued, “When your best players are your hardest workers, you’ve got a chance to be a special team. And our best players are our hardest workers.”
Undefeated at Home in 2018
With the win over UAB Saturday, MTSU improved to 5-0 at Floyd Stadium in 2018.
“We take great pride in playing at home,” said Coach Stockstill. “You’ve gotta be able to win at home to be successful. We try to represent our fans, our community, this university. Hopefully, that does provide an advantage for us.”
With their biggest game of 2018 at home next weekend, the Blue Raiders hope to see the stadium full for the Conference USA Championship Game.
“Hopefully it will be rocking and rolling,” said Coach Stockstill.
Conference USA Championship Game in the ‘Boro
The Conference USA Championship Game against the same UAB team, which peaked at No. 25 in the Amway Coaches Poll this season, will kick off at 12:30 Saturday, Dec. 1 at Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.