Photo by Darwin Moore / MTSU Sidelines
After a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (2-2) are set to begin the Conference USA portion of their 2017 schedule against Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls (1-3).
The Blue Raiders are coming off of a solid 24-13 win over the Bowling Green Falcons, their first home win of the season. With star dynamic duo Brent Stockstill and Richie James out, backup quarterback John Urzua turned in one of his best games of the season by going 24-32 for 290 yards and two touchdowns.
While Urzua stepped up, the Middle Tennessee running game was the biggest story of the game. With Shane Tucker and Terelle West both out, the Blue Raiders turned to Brad Anderson and Jocquez Bruce. While freshman Anderson was starting his first career college game, Bruce was playing his first college game at running back after being moved to the position just a week prior.
They did not disappoint as Anderson was a threat in both the passing (98 yards) and running game (107 yards). This included a 64-yard touchdown catch-and-run just before half to get the momentum firmly in favor of the Blue Raiders.
Bruce was great as well, running the ball 17 times for 117 yards and a touchdown on the Blue Raiders opening drive. The play of these two allowed Urzua to pass a little more freely since BGSU couldn’t focus solely on him.
With conference play on the horizon, Head Coach Rick Stockstill knows that both the passing game and running game will have to be strong in order to be successful.
“We go into every game with the whole (playbook). We’re not holding anything back,” Stockstill said. “When you can run the ball, it gives you a better chance to be successful with everything you do … First down, we were able to run the ball more effectively, which puts you in more third and short situations.”
Florida Atlantic is a deceptive team, whose record doesn’t indicate how well they’ve played. With games against the likes of Navy, Wisconsin and Buffalo, the Owls have played against stiff competition and will give their all on Saturday.
“I’ve always felt that FAU is one of the more talented teams in the conference, and this year is (no different),” Stockstill said. “They’ve got really athletic players at all positions … We’ve got to play really sound, disciplined football on the defensive side of the ball … This is a great challenge for us. This is going to be a tough, hard-fought game and most conference games are.”