Moments after their crushing loss to the University of Alabama-Birmingham in the C-USA Championship Game on Dec. 1, Rick and Brent Stockstill sat at the dais with tears in their eyes.
Their bitter defeat at the hands of the Blazers only compounded by the mental error that effectively ended the game leaving the younger Stockstill with no chance to mount a miracle comeback.
Just before taking questions from the media, Coach Stockstill roamed the hall just outside the press room in the MTSU Hall of Fame Building presumably trying to come to terms with the fact that his son’s last home game had ended in such heartbreaking fashion.
Once the press conference started, the elder Stockstill took all the blame. “If anything goes wrong, it’s my fault. Nobody else.”
When the attention turned to the younger Stockstill, he pondered through his futile attempt at choking back tears as to whether it was his toughest loss. “Yeah, definitely,” he said after an excruciating pause.
It’s rare to see such a distraught display from football players and coaches.
Sometimes, there’s brutal honesty in those moments. Other times, there’s a bravado that makes one question whether the coach or player was watching the same game.
Not so with the Stockstills.
This was raw emotion from a couple of men who gave Middle Tennessee’s football program everything they had on 13 weekends this fall and close to 50 weekends since Brent became the Blue Raiders quarterback in 2015.
When Coach Stockstill said through tears, “I wanted so bad to win for [these players],” it was not lip-service.
When Brent Stockstill spent a week in the training room to try and come back from a high ankle sprain in seven days to lead the Blue Raiders to victory over Charlotte, it wasn’t for selfish reasons.
Following his gutsy performance in that October win over Charlotte, his coach-father said, “[Brent] cares more about letters than numbers. He just wants to win.”
The value of the Stockstill family to the Middle Tennessee football program is realized with more than mere numbers. But those numbers are pretty incredible.
The 2018 season was Coach Stockstill’s 13th year at the helm in Murfreesboro. He coached his team to its first C-USA East title and the Blue Raiders went 5-1 at home. Middle Tennessee will play in its eighth bowl game under his leadership this weekend.
Brent Stockstill went over 12,000 career passing yards this season, landing him at No. 6 in C-USA history. He also threw his 105th career touchdown in the C-USA title game, tying him with Marcus Mariota for 20th all-time in FBS history.
Over the last four years, the two have amassed 30 wins, finishing no worse than third in C-USA’s east division. Saturday’s R&L Carrier’s New Orleans Bowl will be their fourth bowl game together.
It was only fitting that Brent Stockstill won the C-USA Most Valuable Player award on the same day his father was announced as the C-USA Coach of the Year last week.
On Saturday night, the Stockstills will compete and coach in their final game together for the Blue Raiders.
No matter what happens in New Orleans, Rick and Brent’s impact on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider football program as coach and quarterback will always be more about letters than numbers.
You can watch the New Orleans Bowl at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 on ESPN as the Blue Raiders take on the Appalachian State Mountaineers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.