Photo by Sarah Grace Taylor / Editor-in-Chief
Middle Tennessee (5-2) upset Missouri (2-5) 51-45 in Columbia on Homecoming. With the win, the Blue Raiders earned their first victory over an SEC school since they beat Vanderbilt in Nashville in 2005.
The offensive-minded teams combined for 1,213 yards in the ballgame, with both sides struggling to get stops on defense.
Middle Tennessee started out the game firing on all cylinders.
On third-and-six in MTSU’s first offensive possession, Brent Stockstill shocked the Mizzou defense by keeping the ball, and picking up a career-high 62 yards with his legs to put the Blue Raiders in prime position to score.
Moments later, Stockstill found Dennis Andrews right over them middle for a 15-yard touchdown and Andrew’s fourth score of the season.
The Tigers are 2nd in FBS in sacks allowed but MTSU’s Steven Rhodes found quarterback Drew Lock on the second drive of the game to pin Mizzou back in their own territory. Two plays later on 3rd-and-13, Lock’s pass slipped out of his hand and Chris Melton gobbled it up to put the Blue Raider offense on the 26-yard line to start their second drive of the day.
Mizzou’s defense made some plays of their own, however, and forced Middle Tennessee to settle for a 39-yard Canon Rooker field goal. Rooker made it with ease, boosting his streak to eight-straight makes on the year and giving MT the early 10-0 lead.
On Mizzou’s third offensive drive, Lock started making plays with his his legs, as well as his arm.
After concerting on fourth down play, running back Damarea Crockett muscled his way into the endzone to put Mizzou on the board, 10-7.
Middle Tennessee’s next drive was faced with two third down plays. The team was able to convert one-of-two and would have to rely on the sure leg of Rooker once again, this time from 28 yards out. Even with an odd angle, Rooker nailed it, extending the Raider lead to 13-7.
The Tiger offense would not bow out. Missouri kept making play after play, wearing down the Blue Raiders towards the end of the first quarter. Drew Lock capped off a 9-play, 75-yard drive that only took 1:49 off the clock by hitting a wide open receiver off a play-fake in the endzone to take their first lead of the game, 14-13.
The Tiger momentum would carry over on defense as Mizzou forced MT to go three-and-out.
Lock found Jonathon Johnson minutes later on a 38-yard bomb for a touchdown. MT would catch a break, however, as a offenseive pass interference call would negate the score and back up Mizzou, making it 1st-and-25.
The Tigers athleticism proved to be too much as they would not only pick up the 25 yards, but go on to score. Crockett found the endzone with his legs for his second time of the day from four yards out.
Down 21-13, MTSU now had their backs against the wall and needed another score.
I’Tavius Mathers answered that call. The senior busted a 71-yard run down the sideline to improve to 12 scores on the year and cut the deficit to just one point, 21-20 with 12:20 left in the second quarter.
Middle Tennessee would again come up with a huge play on the defensive side of the ball. After a 40-yard pass completion to J’Mon Moore, MTSU’s DJ Sanders stripped the ball, causing it to bounce into the endzone where Jeremy Cutrer scooped it up for a Blue Raider touchback.
The Raiders would capitalize on the next drive as Stockstill scrambled around on a broken play and found Richie James wide-open in the middle of the field. James would keep his balance and follow his blocks on his way to a 56-yard score to give MT the lead once again, 27-21.
On the pursuing Missouri drive, MTSU would hold the Tigers on 3rd-and-one from the two-yard line. However, the Tigers would elect to go for it and were successful, picking up the extra yard needed for a touchdown in the process, making it 28-27.
The eventful first half wasn’t over yet though.
With 1:40 left on the clock, the Missouri punter mishandled the snap and wasn’t able to get off the punt. Middle Tennessee took over on the seven yard-line where a reverse handoff was concluded with Richie James walking into the end zone to put MTSU up 34-28 going into halftime.
The score by James was the first rushing touchdown of the year by a player other than Mathers.
Middle Tennessee kept charging in the second half. Stockstill fired a pass to a wide-open James but he dropped it, the 3rd drop of the day.
Missouri took their opening possession of the second half and moved it methodically down the field ending it with a 21-yard Crockett touchdown, his fourth rushing score of the game.
After being forced to punt on the first possession of the second half, Mathers took over on the second drive. After consecutive rushes of 14 and 23 yards, Stockstill found Mathers for a 4-yard connection to once again take the lead, 41-35.
Tyrone Nix’s crew held strong on their next outing, forcing the Tigers to punt and allowed the offense to have a chance to gain a substantial lead.
Starting the drive on their own five yard-line, MT moved the ball all the way down the field, taking 6:08 minutes off the clock in the process.
The Blue Raiders were left empty-handed, though as Rooker’s streak came to an end on a 47-yard missed field goal attempt.
But for the second time on Saturday, the Blue Raiders held strong near to goal-line and forced to the Tigers to take a field goal of their own making it 41-38.
Faced with a 3rd-and-five on the next possession, Stockstill’s pass fell incomplete but Mizzou’s Marcell Frazier hit him late and was called for targeting as well. Once again, a Tiger mistake lead to a positive Blue Raider outcome as they were awarded a first down and kept the drive alive.
Moments later, Stockstill dropped a 23-yard pass over the top to Andrews who put them 1st-and-goal from the six.
Stockstill and Andrews hooked up again moments later for a touchdown on a perfectly placed backside throw and catch play.
With the lead 48-38, it was up to the defense to keep making plays.
Mizzou’s offense wouldn’t be denied. In less than two minutes, Lock found Ray Wingo in the back corner of the endzone to put the Tigers down one score, 48-45.
The dynamic duo of Stockstill and James was witnessed moments later as the two connected for a 49-yard gain.
The Blue Raider’s couldn’t punch it in, but Rooker redeemed himself on a 21-yard field goal giving MT the lead 51-45 with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Stockstill and company wasn’t able to score, but they were able to run off a lot of time.
After a Matt Bonadies punt, Missouri began their final drive of the game at the 27-yard line.
Playing under pressure is nothing new for this defensive unit and once again, they bowed their necks when it counted, giving Middle Tennessee its fourth win over a Power Five team in Head Coach Rick Stockstill’s time in Murfreesboro, the last coming against Georgia Tech in 2012.
MTSU’s big three had another fine day, with I’Tavius Mather leading the way with a career-high 215 yards rushing to go along with one receiving and one rushing touchdown .
Stockstill threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns on the day while his counterpart, Richie James racked up 129 yards on just five catches for one touchdown.
Dennis Andrews also added 65 yards receiving and two big grabs for scores.
Defensively, safety Alex Dale lead the way with a career-high 18 tackles.
Middle Tennessee goes back on the road Saturday when they take on FIU. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
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