Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (3-5, 1-3) fell behind early and never recovered, falling to Marshall (6-1, 3-0) on Friday night by a score of 38-10.
The Blue Raiders defense got off to a solid start against the Marshall rushing attack but couldn’t sustain is, as they gave up a 15-yard touchdown run to Tyler King for an early 7-0 Thundering Herd lead.
Middle Tennessee answered back on their next drive, with Canon Rooker kicking a career-long 50-yard field goal to bring the Raiders within 7-3.
This is where the troubles began for Middle. After getting pinned deep in their own territory, Blue Raider quarterback John Urzua’s third-down pass was batted at the line and picked off by Marshall’s Artis Johnson and returned for a 17-yard touchdown.
The turnover troubles continued on the next drive, as C.J. Windham fumbled a catch on first down to give the Herd the ball back at the Blue Raider 18 yard-line. They cashed in a couple plays later, with Keion Davis running the ball in from nine yards out to give Marshall a commanding 21-3 lead.
MTSU struck back on their next drive, as Urzua completed a clutch, 33-yard pass to Ty Lee that set the Blue Raiders up inside the Marshall red zone. A few plays later, Richie James hauled in an Urzua pass to cut the lead to 21-10.
Not to be outdone, Marshall countered with ten more points to end the half with a 31-10 lead.
Middle Tennessee’s defense played better in the second half as they only gave up a single touchdown, but the offense just couldn’t get going in a 38-10 defeat.
Turnovers continue to be an issue
While they looked good at times, the Blue Raiders continued being plagued by the turnover bug in the first half. After Urzua’s pass was picked off and taken all the way back to the end zone, Windham’s fumble on first down did the team zero favors and they found themselves down by 18 points.
With the season winding down and conference games meaning more and more by the day, Middle Tennessee can’t afford to make the same mistakes if they want to find a way to bowl eligibility.
“We say it every week whenever something goes wrong. (We have) to protect the ball, and keep it high and tight,” Urzua said. “You’ve just got to work in practice.”
James’ continues solid return to play, but leaves with another injury
In his second game back from injury, James continued his excellent play in the first half with four catches for 34 yards. By the time the game was over, James ended with five catches for 37 yards and a touchdown.
After his performance against UAB last week, James’ continues to give offense a little boost after missing four games. Having him back in the lineup gives Urzua a reliable, four-down receiver that he knows will produce.
“It definitely helps, Richie is one of the best players I have ever been around,” Urzua said. “When he can make plays, our offense moves the ball just fine. We have full confidence in him.”
Despite the triumphant return, it was all ruined when he was removed from the game with an apparent shoulder injury. For the man in charge, the early prognosis doesn’t look good.
“It doesn’t look good … I know he was in a sling near the end of the game,” said head coach Rick Stockstill. “I’m not too optimistic … I think he’ll probably be on the shelf for a good amount of time.”
— Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13) October 21, 2017
The Blue Raiders will head into their long-awaited bye week, looking for answers heading into their final four games of the season.
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