Photo by Devon Arnold/MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee football team is hungry and ready for redemption this Saturday. After committing costly mistakes which led to a 47-24 loss at Vanderbilt last Saturday, it would be easy for many to assume the Blue Raiders morale has taken a hit. However, fans who believe that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The team has rid their minds of last week’s loss and are looking forward to another “one-week season” this Saturday. They don’t sulk, nor they do they feel sorry for themselves. The Blue Raiders snap the ball and move on to the next play, or in this situation, the next game.
“You know that was a tough loss for us,” said quarterback Brent Stockstill. “Everybody on this team wanted that one. But win or lose, we have a 24-hour rule, so when we come back Sunday, we watch the film, make some adjustments and come back to work. After those 24 hours, we were ready to focus on Bowling Green.”
The Blue Raiders started off week two of the football season with uncharacteristic miscues that immediately put them in a hole. Running back Ruben Garnett fumbled on a non-contact play setting up Vanderbilt for a field goal. Minutes later, returner Richie James muffed a punt near his own end zone which resulted in a safety.
“That’s you not being yourself and you not helping the team out by making those mistakes,” said Richie James when asked about the team’s miscues. “They teach us that every day, you know you got to hold on to the ball, be great on special teams. Those things occur, its football. But you just flush it out of your system and move on.”
And that’s exactly what the All-American did. Less than five minutes later, quarterback Brent Stockstill connected with James in the opposite end zone for the team’s first touchdown of the day.
Brent Stockstill also recorded an interception, but he and James both kept fighting to keep the team in the game. On the day, the two combined for multiple career highs and school records.
“I had an interception, put the ball on the ground, had a couple pre-snap penalties,” said Brent Stockstill. “But for me, as a quarterback, you got to have a short memory. Good or bad, you have to move on to the next play, and that’s really what coach Franklin’s been preaching to me.”
Stockstill threw 65 passes on the day, breaking his previous career-high and old school record he set last season (56). He also set a career-high in passing yards with 399. Lastly, the 14 connections from Stockstill to James were the most receptions any receiver in school history has ever recorded.
“You got to focus on the next play” said James. “You got to flush it out of your system. I had a muffed punt, and then the next drive I made it up. That just tells you that it’s possible to flush it out of your system, you just got to be mentally tough.”
Stockstill and James responded to their next snap with a clear mind, and the rest of the team fell in line facing one of the top defenses in the SEC.
“I’ve said it this week, what we did offensively against Vanderbilt was something that not a lot of teams have done, not many teams in the SEC, not many in the country,” said Head Coach Rick Stockstill. “That defense is really good.”
On the day, the Blue Raider offense finished with 495 total yards and 24 points on the scoreboard.
Stockstill said most teams aren’t able to put up those kind of numbers on Vanderbilt’s defense, including the 2015 SEC East Champions, the Florida Gators.
Last November, Florida hosted Vanderbilt at The Swamp for their annual homecoming game.
After trailing the whole game, the Gators won on a late field goal, winning 9-7 in game where the Commodores were a heavy-underdogs. On the day, Florida passed for only 158 yards, turned the ball over four times, gained just 258 yards of total offense, and put up a mere nine points on the scoreboard.
Rick Stockstill also said the team’s intensity and concentration has been at a high level this week heading into their week three matchup at Bowling Green this Saturday at 11 a.m.
“Whether you make a good play or bad play, you win a game or lose a game, it doesn’t do you any good to dwell on it,” Stockstill said. “You correct your mistakes, and continue to improve on what you do good.”
“It’s a one game season every week.”