The After Report: Stockstill’s return, improved running game key for match-up against 49ers

Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (4-5, 2-3) are back on the winning track after their latest defeat of the University of Texas-El Paso in 30-3 fashion.

This victory also featured the return of star quarterback Brent Stockstill, who played in his first game since suffering a cracked sternum against Syracuse in week two. About 45 minutes before kick-off, Stockstill was on the field for warm-ups, and it was confirmed that he would start over redshirt freshman Kyle Banks against the Miners.

While he only completed 43.3 percent of his passes (the lowest percentage of his career), he threw for three touchdowns and led the Blue Raider offense to one of their better offensive performances. He may have been back, but he is clearly still adjusting to playing on the field.

“He’s still playing the game … He’s not going to hold back,” said head coach Rick Stockstill. “There’s still going to be health concern for finishing out the year, but he got through that game fine.”

Though he may not have been at his best, his teammates certainly took advantage of their leader being back in action.

“When he’s around, you can definitely feel it,” said safety Jovante Moffatt. “He brings up the locker room on both sides, so it’s good to have him back.”

It also helped to have a great run game, as the Blue Raiders gashed the UTEP defense for 210 yards. Tavares Thomas and Brad Anderson led the attack this week, with Thomas carrying the ball nine times for 68 yards and a rushing touchdown. Anderson added 68 yards of his own to help the team to a 210-yard performance.

While they both possess different skill sets and abilities, this two-headed monster they’ve formed has given the Blue Raiders the run game they’ve needed to take pressure off the quarterback.

“(Anderson) has been really good about putting his foot in the ground and getting north and south … Tavares gives us a bigger back,” Stockstill said. “You go from tackling a 165-pounder to a 230-pounder, and that makes a difference.”

Currently sitting at 4-5 overall for the season, Middle Tennessee will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a date with the Charlotte 49ers on Saturday. Though they are only 1-8 on the season, MTSU knows they can’t afford any slip-ups if they want to make it to a bowl game.

“It doesn’t matter who you play, it’s why you play,” Stockstill said. “We’ve got to be ready to play this game this week. It’s tough to win games on the road, it’s especially tough to win conference games on the road.”

The Blue Raiders will be in action against the 49ers on Saturday at 1 p.m. as they look to continue the roll that this week’s win put them on.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13), email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport

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