Blue Raiders start strong but falter late in Bahamas Bowl

Photo courtesy of MT Athletics

The Blue Raiders fell to the Western Michigan Broncos after a strong showing at the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl on Thursday in the Bahamian capital of Nassau. Missed opportunities were the Achilles’ heel for the team, as the Broncos took home the trophy with a 45-31 win.

Middle Tennessee started as well as anyone could’ve expected, scoring in just one minute, 17 seconds as Richie James rushed for a career-high 46-yard touchdown. Western Michigan responded every time the Blue Raiders found traction and capitalized on their chances.

After James’ 46-yard scamper, the Broncos responded with a 62-yard touchdown run of their own, a perfectly designed run by Jamauri Bogan. Bogan was the star of Thursday’s game, finishing with 215 yards on 19 carries and four touchdowns.

The first five minutes of the game showed the prowess that both offenses brought to Nassau, with each team trading blows early. James found the end zone again in the first quarter, a 44-yard pass play that put the Blue Raiders up 14-7.

By the end of the first quarter, things were all knotted up at 17 apiece, and it looked like the Bowl would be an offensive slugfest. Both defenses seemed to take things up a notch in the second, with neither team scoring before halftime.

Bogan would find the end zone first in the third quarter, putting the Broncos back on top 24-17. The Blue Raiders weren’t planning on leaving without a win, with quarterback Brent Stockstill finding Christian Collis late in the third for the touchdown to tie the game once again at 24.

The two teams would once again trade blows in the fourth quarter, with the Broncos taking the lead just before the midway point, but James would find the end zone for the third time, and things were square at 31.

Bogan proved why he was such a pivotal player for Western Michigan all season, scoring two more touchdowns in a span of two minutes in the fourth quarter, securing the win for the Broncos 45-31.

“We gave up too many big plays,” Coach Rick Stockstill said in the post-game press conference. “We had to stop the run and limit the big plays, and we weren’t able to do either one of those. I really thought that was the difference in the game.”

Redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill had another great game for the Blue Raiders, finishing 26-of-39 for 327 yards and three touchdowns, with just one interception.

Richie James capped off an unbelievable freshman season, finishing with eight catches for 126 yards and two scores, while adding one score on the ground. James also surpassed former Blue Raider wideout Kerry Wright for the single-season yards record, finishing with 1,346 on the year.

Stockstill set a new NCAA freshman completions mark in the loss, topping former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen, with 327 completions on the year. The four touchdowns in Thursday’s game by the Blue Raiders set a new single season high for MT, eclipsing the mark of 56 set by the 2001 team.

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To contact Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email sportseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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