Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
After a disappointing 28-6 setback against Vanderbilt, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (0-1) have moved on and are preparing for their next game against the Syracuse Orange.
The Blue Raiders struggled in every facet of the game on Saturday, as Commodore quarterback Kyle Shurmur carved the secondary up for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The defense stepped up in the second half of the game however, and only allowed one touchdown the rest of the game after giving up scores on Vanderbilt’s first three drives.
The front seven also played well against the run. A year after he ran for a career-high 211 yards against MTSU, Ralph Webb was held to a mere 49 yards on 24 carries.
While the defense began to stop the Commodores, the offense struggled to get any flow against Vanderbilt’s defense.
The lone bright spot in the game was Richie James’ ten catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. The 112 yards made him the all-time leading receiver in Middle Tennessee history.
Even with how disappointing the loss was, the Blue Raiders are ready for their next Power 5 opponent, the Syracuse Orange. With the return of a top 15 offense, the Blue Raider defense must get off to a better start in this contest.
“(Syracuse) finished last season with a shootout against Pitt, they (lost) 76-61 … It’s a really high-powered offense,” said head coach Rick Stockstill. “It’s a good football team, it’s going to be a challenge (playing in the Carrier Dome).”
With how the secondary performed against Vanderbilt, Stockstill knows that they will have to be better for the Blue Raiders to have any hopes of winning.
“I think they’ll throw the ball 50, 60 times … They’ll try to spread us out,” Stockstill said. “That’s what they do, so I don’t anticipate anything different.”
As far as the offense goes, the offensive line will need to block better for this team to win. Make no mistake, everyone is looking to improve after Saturday’s defeat.
“We’ve just got to come back to work and get better as a group. I don’t think it was any one, particular position,” quarterback Brent Stockstill said. “It’s a group effort, you win as a team, and you lose as a team.”
One of the biggest keys to this weekend’s game against the Orange will be getting others involved in the offense. While James had a phenomenal game, it’ll also be the play of guys like Ty Lee, C.J. Windham and Shane Tucker that could be the difference in the game.
“We’ve got to get other guys involved, (Vanderbilt) did a good job in limiting us,” Stockstill said. “We’ve got to get Ty Lee some more touches, we’ve got to get those outside guys more touches and establish more of a run game … You’re never going to win with just one guy (producing), you’ve got to have more production across the board.”
The Blue Raiders and Orange are set to kick off at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, and the game can also be viewed on the ACC Network.
To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email firstname.lastname@example.org.