The Monday After Report: Blue Raiders Birmingham-bound for crucial matchup

The MTSU offense lines up for a play against the FIU Panthers on Oct. 7, 2017, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Devin P. Grimes/MTSU Sidelines)l

Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines

Coming off the heels of a 37-17 win against the Florida International Panthers, the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (3-3, 1-1) will hit the road Saturday to take on the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers.

The biggest takeaway from the FIU game was the Blue Raiders winning the turnover battle. MTSU didn’t turn the ball over a single time, while they recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass. Middle Tennessee also forced four fumbles overall.

“(Winning the turnover battle) is a perfect example of (how) if you don’t beat yourself, and you don’t turn the ball over, you got a chance to beat anybody,” said Head Coach Rick Stockstill.

Stockstill also collected his 75th career win as a head coach against the Panthers, all of which have come during his time with the Blue Raiders.

“I’m proud of the team winning Saturday night, and I’m proud of the wins we’ve had with all of our other former players who’ve been part of this program,” Stockstill said. “I’m very fortunate and appreciative of the opportunity I have to represent our football program and this university.”

Quarterback John Urzua completed his first career start without throwing at least one interception and is preparing to face the second best pass defense in Conference USA

“(John) needs to be a smart decision-maker,” Stockstill said. “As a quarterback, if you make smart decisions, most of the time you’ll get good results.”

With the Blue Raider defense coming off arguably their best performance of the year, they will have to prepare for yet another talented quarterback in former Blue Raider A.J. Erdely. Erdely is a dual-threat player who can do damage to a team on the ground.

The Georgia native is second on the team in rushing yards (140) and leads the team in rushing touchdowns (seven).

“Anytime your quarterback is a threat as a runner, it always presents an added problem to your defense,” Stockstill said. “Especially in their zone-read stuff, you have to be disciplined and sound in your keys. You also have to be cognizant of when the pocket breaks down so he can get outside of the pocket and buy some time.”

The run-heavy Blazer offense has struggled in pass protection, allowing 13 sacks in five games. Coming off of a four-sack performance against FIU, the Blue Raider front seven is ready to do their part to help the defensive backs be successful in pass coverage this week.

“(Our pass rush) helps a lot,” said safety Jovante Moffatt. “Coach (Scott) Shafer likes to bring pressure, and that can go good for us if we get behind the line of scrimmage and disrupt what they do.”

Kick-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. from Legion Field in Birmingham. The game will be televised on beIN sports and broadcast over radio on 102.5 The Game.  Murfreesboro listeners can use frequency 97.5.

Follow MTSU sports reporter Anthony Fiorella on Twitter at @A_Fiorella74 for more coverage.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13), email

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

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