Photo by Darwin Moore / MTSU Sidelines
Story by Devin P. Grimes / Sports Reporter
Since the start of the college football season, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (2-2) have been searching for what they are best at: running the ball.
Not only have the Blue Raiders struggled to establish a consistent running game, but now injuries are also a problem heading into their fifth game of the year. Impact players such as Brent Stockstill, Richie James and Chandler Brewer did not see action in last week’s 24-13 victory over Bowling Green.
This football team has been looking for answers at the running back position. Sophomore Terelle West suffered a right knee injury and underwent arthrosporic knee surgery. West was listed as the number one running back coming into the season.
Since then, Middle Tennessee has rotated different players to fill this position.
On Saturday against Bowling Green, the coaching staff turned to 5’8″ true freshman Brad Anderson and he delivered by showing the toughness and confidence he gained from high school football.
“I learned a lot because I played 7A football,” Anderson said. “That prepared me the most because I’m used to competition. I’m used to seeing big guys and running behind a good offensive line.”
Each and every practice gives players a chance to work hard for what they want to earn. In his first collegiate start, Anderson ran for 108 yards on 16 carries. He also caught six passes for 98 yards and scored his first touchdown of his young career.
“It felt amazing,” Anderson said. “Being able to do that as my first collegiate touchdown — it was surreal.”
His teammates know how talented he is, as players like receiver Tyrese Johnson admire his effectiveness.
“He so small and quick, and low to the ground,” Johnson said.
Not only is he quick, but he’s also versatile as a pass-catcher. Quarterback John Urzua connected with Anderson on a 64-yard strike that displayed the speed of the young running back, as he broke loose to the end zone for six.
Even more important for Anderson was that he had some special specatators there to see it.
“I had my parents in the stands, and just being able to share that with them, that meant the most to me,” Anderson said.
The impressive play in his first start did not go unnoticed by head coach Rick Stockstill. Even though his career is young, Stockstill believes that Anderson can help this team win games.
“I think he’s got a chance to be a really, really good player for us,” Stockstill said.
Middle Tennessee performed their best rushing offense thus far against Bowling Green, gaining a total of 243 rushing yards. Running back Jocquez Bruce was also a big contributor in the run game, rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown score.
By having a solid ground game, it gives the Blue Raiders a chance to have a balanced offense headed into a conference matchup against Florida Atlantic.
“I feel like being able to run and pass is a great opportunity for our team because it opens up our whole offense,” Anderson said.
The Blue Raiders seek to carry this momentum into Boca Raton, Florida when they face Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls, who are coming off of a close loss to the Buffalo Bulls by a score of 34-31. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m.