Blue Raiders have ‘golden’ opportunity against Golden Panthers

Pictured: Shubert Bastien and Leighton Gasque. Blue Raiders lose long struggle against BYU. Photos by RJ Estrella MTSU Sidelines Staff Photographer

After two byes in three weeks, Middle Tennessee (5-4, 4-1 C-USA) is back at it this upcoming Saturday, facing Florida International (3-7, 2-4 C-USA). This will be the first of three back-to-back Conference-USA games for MTSU.

The Blue Raiders are coming off of a 27-7 drubbing at the hands of BYU. The Cougars held MTSU to a season-low 228 yards of total offense in the loss.

The defeat left Middle Tennessee one win short of becoming bowl eligible.

A win over FIU would make the Blue Raiders bowl eligible for the third straight year and sixth time in nine seasons under head coach Rick Stockstill.

“Our team is concerned with FIU,” Stockstill said. “We’re aware of it, but we don’t think about it.”

MTSU has a golden opportunity to become bowl eligible this week against a lowly Golden Panthers team.

FIU started the season with an even 3-3 record, but have now lost four games in a row. The Golden Panthers lost on a last-second field goal this past Saturday to Old Dominion.

FIU ranks near the bottom in the country in almost every offensive category. This should be a welcomed sign for an MTSU defense that has been performing better as of late, but still ranks 109th in total defense.

The Golden Panthers, however, do protect the ball, ranking second in C-USA in turnover margin at plus-eight.

“They’ve protected the ball,” Stockstill said. “They don’t put their defense in a bad spot.”

This will be the tenth all-time meeting between the two former Sun Belt Conference foes. The Blue Raiders lead the series 6-3, with Middle Tennessee winning last year’s contest 48-0 at Floyd Stadium.

“They’re a better team than they were last year,” Stockstill said. “I have a lot of respect for [FIU Head Coach] Ron Turner.”

One player to watch this weekend will be MTSU linebacker Leighton Gasque.

Gasque tallied a sack against BYU to bring him to 22 career sacks as a Blue Raider. He is now one-half sack away from breaking former Middle Tennessee standout Erik Walden’s school record.

“It does excite me,” Gasque said. “I just have to take every opportunity I get.”

The game is this Saturday at FIU’s Alfonso Field in Miami. It will be televised on the American Sports Network and can be heard locally on the Blue Raider Network.

For more Blue Raider Football, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport

To  contact sports editor Connor Grott, email

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