In a game that was over right as it began, the Blue Raiders (2-4, 1-1 C-USA) went from the brink of .500 to 2-4 and in desperate search of a win. Western Kentucky came out sharp from the start, and never let up, improving to 3-0 in C-USA with the 58-28 win. Saturday marked the first win for Western Kentucky (5-1, 3-0 C-USA) over Middle Tennessee in Bowling Green since 1989.
The Hilltoppers wasted no time Saturday afternoon, scoring on their opening drive in just under 1:30. De’Andre Ferby sealed the four play, 75-yard drive with a quick burst of speed into the endzone.
Western Kentucky didn’t wait much longer, forcing a punt and scoring on a 43-yard pass to tight end Tyler Higbee just over two minutes later. The Hilltoppers kept up the tempo, leading 21-0 before the Blue Raiders put points on the board.
The Blue Raiders tried to regain momentum throughout the game, but Brandon Doughty kept Middle’s defense on its heels by putting another pair of touchdowns on the board before halftime. The senior quarterback had another stellar day, finishing 28-36 for 359 yards and five touchdowns. The Hilltoppers led 52-14 at the half, and it was all but over for the Blue Raiders.
The second half was much improved for Middle Tennessee, who held Doughty in check for most of the third quarter. The Blue Raider defense gave up just six points in the second half, something that could be attested to a large Western Kentucky lead.
Richie James showed once again why he’s a threat for the Blue Raiders, finishing with seven catches for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“We tried to take what the defensive gave us,” James said about the pass attack. “It’s something we’ve gotta go back to tomorrow, hopefully we can get better.”
The run game has been virtually non-existent for the Blue Raiders the past couple weeks, and things didn’t look good when it was announced that starter Shane Tucker wouldn’t play, and Jordan Parker went out in the first quarter with an injury.
Jeremiah Bryson produced what Middle needed to open up the pass game a bit, carrying for 76 yards on the day, and scoring a 28-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
“As an offense we can set up the run first, and then the pass,” James said about the running back. “Jeremiahs’ carrying the ball, making plays, it definitely helped us with the passing game.”
The senior from Smyrna was pleased with his performance, but not happy with the teams’ result.
“It’s over with, this game’s over with,” Bryson said. “All we can do is look ahead. They got on top of us too early, we were playing catch up the rest of the game.”
The offense that Western Kentucky boasts is near tops in the nation, and for good reason. Doughty possesses the skill set that shows why he’s a potential draft steal. The senior out of Davie, Florida now has 20 touchdowns this season through the Hilltoppers six games and shows no signs of slowing down.
“We knew coming in that we had to keep the ball in front of us,” head coach Rick Stockstill said about the Western offense. “Give Jeff (Brohm) and the rest of them a lot of credit, they did a nice job today.”
The Blue Raiders turn their focus to another C-USA opponent next weekend at home, as Florida International come to town. The Golden Panthers are fresh off a 52-14 win over UTEP, but sit at just 3-3 on the season. If the Blue Raiders are keen on earning a bowl bid, wins will be key these last six weeks of the season.
“I told our team at halftime that we’re a good football team,” Stockstill said. “You’ll make me right or wrong by how you respond in the second half. They made me right.”
The Blue Raiders returned home Saturday night, and will begin preparations for FIU Sunday. MTSU and FIU square off Saturday October 17 at Floyd Stadium. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.
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