Story by Colton Pickard/ Contributing Writer
Photos by Kaitlyn Hungerford
On a cold and rainy day, the MTSU Blue Raiders (4-8, 3-5 C-USA) lost in its “100 Miles of Hate” rivalry matchup 31-26 against Western Kentucky (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) to finish its first losing season since 2011.
Middle Tennessee hasn’t been a team to give up this season, and that didn’t change in the season finale.
MTSU trailed WKU 31-20 with three minutes remaining in the game, but didn’t lay down. Instead, Asher O’Hara found Ty Lee in the endzone for a touchdown to bring the lead to five after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
The Blue Raiders were unable to get the onside kick with 36 seconds left in the game, which ended the game and the season for MTSU.
Head Coach Rick Stockstill doesn’t believe quitting is in his player’s DNA and made it a focus after the game that he’s appreciative of his seniors.
“Most of (the seniors) have been here for five years. Everything they’ve been through, you know, we’ve been through it together. They gave everything they had. I’m appreciative of all of those seniors everything they have done, everything they have sacrificed,” Stockstill said.
But it didn’t all end poorly for MTSU. Ty Lee’s touchdown at the end of the game was his 24th of his career, which moves him past Richie James for the most in program history.
After the game, O’Hara got emotional when asked about getting Lee that final touchdown.
“I would have felt real bad if he didn’t get it. I love playing with him. He’s a great player,” O’Hara said postgame.
O’Hara also rushed for 144 yards in the season finale, and finishes at 1,044 rushing yards on the season, making him the second MTSU quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
O’Hara also reached the 100-yard mark on the ground and through the air for the third time this season.
Western Kentucky committed multiple mistakes on special teams that kept MTSU in the game. A muffed punt in the first quarter gave MTSU a short field, and they took advantage to score the first touchdown of the game.
After an opening drive touchdown in the second half, WKU proceeded to miss two straight field goals, which bailed out O’Hara after he threw an interception.
The MTSU offense took advantage of the two missed field goals to regain the lead with a 24-yard touchdown pass from O’Hara to Jarrin Pierce.
MTSU’s downfall came in the second half when the defensive line struggled to get any pressure on WKU quarterback Ty Storey and running back Gaej Walker.
It didn’t take long for WKU Head Coach Tyson Helton to realize this and call plays around MTSU’s struggling front seven.
Gaej Walker was featured on the ground and finished the day with 119 rushing yards and one touchdown. Storey found success on the ground as well and finished with 62 rushing yards.
For the Blue Raiders, it’s back to recruiting for the coaches and the weight room for the players returning.
Coach Stockstill said in the postgame that he and his coaches will be on the recruiting trail for the next two weeks to try and build this upcoming recruiting class.
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