Photos by: MTSU Sidelines // Austin Lewis
It was a wild afternoon at Floyd Stadium Saturday and another one of those classic games with Marshall (8-2, 5-1 C-USA). Middle Tennessee (4-5, 3-2 C-USA) earned a signature win in the Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces game against the Thundering Herd. The Blue Raiders notched a 27-24 win over the top team in the conference in triple overtime.
“The Salute to Veterans game is near and dear to my heart,” defensive end and veteran Steven Rhodes said about the atmosphere. “It’s always an adrenaline rush. We needed this, we’ve been in a slump here lately, we really came together today.”
Cody Clark gave the Blue Raiders the lead to start triple overtime, burying a career-long 46-yard field goal, and a crazy block on a Marshall field goal by Jeremy Cutrer sealed the win.
Clark missed the game-winning attempt from 31 yards in double overtime, but he responded nicely and refocused himself before the biggest kick of his career.
“I wasn’t quite as in the moment as I should’ve been,” Clark said about the first miss in double overtime. “I wasn’t expecting to be thrown into the next kick that soon. I didn’t even know it was from 46 until he said it on the PA system, I was just going out there and doing what I was supposed to do because I was thinking how much worse could it get at the moment.”
The junior from Georgia responded as well as anyone could’ve. With Marshall’s kicker missing three field goals prior, it was Clark’s chance to right the ship and give the team the lead.
Cornerback Jeremy Cutrer responded just as well, if not better, with his play in the overtime periods. Cutrer, a player with as high a motor as possible, made the mistake that could’ve cost the team late in the 4th quarter. The corner, moving up on the QB run, earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that set up the Thundering Herd with a chance to win. With the missed kick, Cutrer knew he could make up for the mistake.
“When I did that personal foul, I knew the Lord had something in store for me,” Cutrer said after the game. “Xavier was on the side of me and he said we’re gonna get this block. He scooted in some and was like I want you to go get it, and I told him I got you. That felt great man, for my teammates, everybody celebrating like that, it was the best feeling ever.”
Saturday’s win was big for Middle Tennessee, who sit at 4-5 now with three games left on the schedule. The team took time during last week’s bye to rest up mentally and get back to Blue Raider football.
“I think we were fresher, we got away from ball last Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” head coach Rick Stockstill said. “The players deserve the credit. This team has been through a lot, from gut-wrenching losses to injuries that we’ve faced. It would’ve been easy for these guy to fold their tents and give up but they haven’t.”
The Blue Raider offense was confident early, moving the ball in a way we hadn’t seen in weeks, but they struggled to overcome two fumbles in the red zone.
Quarterback Brent Stockstill finally found consistency in the red zone, hitting Terry Pettis from 13 yards out, tying the game at seven. Pettis was one of three receivers to finish with a score in the win. The redshirt-junior finished with a game-high 126 yards to go with his second quarter touchdown.
“I dont think I was in the game plan as much as I thought I’d be, but it happened, so I had to make plays,” Pettis said after the win. “I guess with the type of defense people play, they forget about me coming out of the backfield, I just happened to be open every time.”
The Blue Raider defense had moments of brilliance, supplying stops when they were needed and sparking the offense. Senior T.T. Barber was instrumental in the second quarter, with one drive in particular. The linebacker stopped a Marshall drive solely on his own, with two tackles for loss and a show-stopping interception deep in Middle Tennessee territory.
“It’s all about bringing that momentum, bringing that juice,” Barber said. “It’s just not me, I know I am a leader, but as a collective group we’ve all got to bring the juice and play as one.”
The team earned a much needed win, and, with three regular season games left, MTSU still has a chance to earn a bowl bid. Middle Tennessee prepares this week before heading to Boca Raton to take on Florida Atlantic on Nov. 14. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.
To contact Interim Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email firstname.lastname@example.org.