The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-5, 4-2 C-USA) had a chance to become bowl eligible on Saturday for the third year in a row, but instead let it slip through their fingers as they fell 38-28 to the Florida International Panthers (4-7, 3-4 C-USA).
After holding a 21-3 lead in the second quarter after three touchdown passes from quarterback Austin Grammer, two going to receiver Ed’Marques Batties, MTSU would prove to collapse in all phases of the game.
Beginning with a 10-yard touchdown reception by FIU tight end Jonnu Smith, the Panthers would go on to score 28 unanswered points.
MTSU running back Jordan Parker fumbled on the goal line, leading to FIU’s true freshman quarterback Alex McGough putting together a Panthers touchdown with 40 seconds left in the first half, cutting into the Blue Raiders’ 21-17 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Middle Tennessee running back Reggie Whatley fumbled, setting up the Panthers for another touchdown as Smith recovered the fumble and took it to the end zone for his third touchdown of the game.
Austin Grammer led the Blue Raiders down the field, only to have one of his passes deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by linebacker Davison Colimon for a touchdown, putting Middle Tennessee in a 31-21 hole.
Middle Tennessee retaliated with a big kickoff return by Reggie Whatley, leading to the Blue Raiders driving down the field in three plays in a little over a minute.
The teams took turns punting until Grammer forced a pass that was intercepted by Jeremiah McKinnon with just under 13 minutes left in the game.
That interception did not make nearly as big of an impact as Grammer’s final interception, which came with just four minutes left in the game to safety Demarkus Perkins.
Quarterback Austin Grammer finished the game completing 21 of his 33 passes for 286 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Middle Tennessee will now have to wait until next week’s Senior Night game in Floyd Stadium against the Florida Atlantic Owls to get a chance to become bowl eligible.
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