Middle Tennessee wins late battle over Syracuse 30-23

Ty Lee gets the hand-off from Brent Stockstill in a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday, September 2 in Murfreesboro, TN (Devin P. Grimes/MTSU Sidelines)

Story and photo by Devin P. Grimes / Sports Reporter

It was a tough outing Satuday afternoon, but the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (1-1) walked away with a victory in the Carrier Dome. After a struggling offensive performance last week vs. Vanderbilt, the Blue Raiders defeated the Syracuse Orangemen by a score of 30-23.

There was not much offense at the beginning of this matchup. The focus was defense, as neither team was able to put together consistent offense.

Middle Tennessee scratched the scoreboard first on a safety from Syracuse but after the first quarter, the score was only 3-2 with the Orangemen taking the lead on a field goal.

In the second quarter, the Blue Raiders re-captured the lead when Ty Lee found the endzone on a 14-yard run. Lee finished the game with 50 total rushing yards on 18 carries.

Lee was also a factor in the passing game, catching seven passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Syracuse struck back quickly the following drive with a 1-yard run from running back Dontae Strickland.

After a frustrating first half, the Middle Tennessee defense kept the Blue Raiders in the game and they only trailed 13-9 heading into the locker room.

Brent Stockstill struggled for the majority of the game, but found his rhythm in the second half. With the team trailing 16-9, he connected with star receiver Richie James on a 28-yard strike to tie the game at 16.

This was a big play for the Raiders, as it marked the first time on the season that they converted a third down play. They were previously 0-for-20 in that department.

After the defense recorded another stop on Syracuse, the Blue Raiders got the ball back and drove down the field towards the end of the third quarter. Lee found the endzone once more when Stockstill completed a 48-yard bomb to the sophomore on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 23-16 MTSU lead.

Shane Tucker gets the hand-off from Brent Stockstill in a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday, September 2 in Murfreesboro, TN (Devin P. Grimes/MTSU Sidelines)

After Syracuse tied it on their next possession, each team traded short drives before Middle Tennessee scored to take the lead. With his team facing a crucial third down, Stockstill completed a pass to senior running back Shane Tucker for the go-ahead score.

Middle Tennessee’s defense held up over the next two Syracuse drives and clinched the game for the Blue Raiders by a final score of 30-23. This was highlighted by freshman safety Reed Blankenship’s first career interception.

For the game, Stockstill finished 22-of-36 with 269 yards and three touchdowns. James ended with eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, his second of the season.

Middle Tennessee defense continues momentum

After giving up 28 points through the first half and a drive against Vanderbilt, the Middle Tennessee defense has since locked down their opponents and that continued today.

The team earned six sacks, and brought consistent pressure to the offensive backfield of the Orangemen. This pressure forced opposing quarterback Eric Dungey into bad throws and he ended the day passing 26-of-42 for 180 yards and an interception.

One thing that should be improved going forward is the discipline of the defense. With the game still in the balance in the third, Walter Brady was called for a targeting penalty and subsequently ejected from the game.

A few plays later, Charvarius Ward committed a pass interference penalty to give the Orangemen a first down. For the defense to be successful, little mistakes like that must be cut out.

For the day, the Blue Raiders committed nine penalties for 113 yards.

Offense gets everyone involved

One thing that the Blue Raiders struggled with last week was forcing the ball to Richie James. In this game, Ty Lee was the one that got the offense opened up and rolling.

With the game tied at 16 to open the fourth, Lee beat his man and got free for a 48-yard touchdown to take a brief lead.

Tucker also got involved, as he scored the game-winning touchdown of a leaping dive into the end zone with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.

For the Blue Raider offense to be a threat, everyone must continue to contribute whenever their number is called.

What’s next?

The Blue Raiders will return to Murfreesboro and prepare to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers next Saturday, September 16 at 2:30 p.m.

Follow MTSU Sports Reporter Devin P. Grimes on Twitter at @_DPG1

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, 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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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Errin Jackson
    September 15, 2017

    The season opener was a disappointment to all the MTSU football fans. They looked very rusty and out of order. Everybody was anticipating the Vanderbilt game to be a competitive game that came down to the wire. Everybody was expecting a great season opener. Middle Tennessee State University football came in with a lot hype this year. The most hype they have had in years, after last years success, especially on the offensive end. After the tough loss to Vanderbilt the Blue Raiders came into the Carrier Dome,and knew they had to be laser focused to get a win. They made some adjustments to the offense by putting Ty Lee, a true sophomore, that usually plays receiver at the running back position. He left his impact on the game by carrying the ball 18 times for 50 yards, and he also had 7 pass catches for 76 yards. He scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter to help the Blue Raiders get a tough win against the Syracuse Orange. The defense done their part too by holding the orange to only 23 points. As I was watching the first two games I think the defense is young, but they learn very quick. They already look a little better as a whole in the secondary area. They been playing pretty well the first two games. Hopefully they keep up the momentum as they go into Big Ten territory, and face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on September 16.

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