Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
The return of Brent Stockstill has given the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-5, 3-3) new life. A 35-21 win over Charlotte on Saturday put the team one win away from being bowl eligible.
Stockstill’s second game back from injury was more efficient, as he threw for 255 yards on 18-31 passing with three touchdowns. The redshirt junior also played smart, as he didn’t throw a single interception en route to the victory.
He was also aided by a sound rushing attack, as Tavares Thomas put together his best game as a Blue Raider. He carried the ball 29 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns that powered the team to 28 unanswered points.
Stockstill’s health has been in question the past few weeks, but he looked to be back at full strength this week with his winning performance.
“I thought he was full form when he came back. He missed a couple throws against UTEP, and then he played really well this past week,” said head coach Rick Stockstill. “He’ll continue to improve. Any competitor, any athlete, you always want to get better each week, and that’s what Brent will try to do this week.”
Just a few weeks after being dead in the water, the Blue Raiders have managed to pull together and save their season. At least, they have for now. The uptick in motivation and passion could be due to Stockstill’s return, as the captain’s energy and drive is something they were missing while he was hurt. However, the Middle Tennessee defense has stepped up as well in the past two games. Against UTEP and Charlotte, the Blue Raiders have given up only 24 points in the two victories.
Both Stockstill and the improvement of the defense have led to the team’s 5-5 record.
“His passion, his enthusiasm radiates throughout the whole team. That’s part of it,” Stockstill said. “Defensively, we haven’t given up the big plays that we gave up to Marshall. We’re getting pressure on the quarterback, we’re getting off the field on third down.”
As far as this week is concerned, it’s the biggest game of the season, and Middle Tennessee will have a short week of preparation for it. They will travel to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a pivotal game for both teams.
The major key to a win will be keeping WKU quarterback Mike White from shredding the Blue Raider secondary as he did last season. He threw for 391 yards in the 2016 meeting and is having an excellent season this year. The Blue Raiders will need to get pressure on him in order to make things easier for the defensive backs.
“Personally, I just feel like staying poised is a big thing. Going into last year, it was my first game playing against them, so it was really hyped up,” said safety Jovante Moffatt. “Just getting hits on the quarterback will be big. We know he’s pretty good, too, so that’ll be the main focus going into the game.”
The two teams will square off in the annual “100 Miles of Hate” game on Friday at 7 p.m. The game will air on the CBS Sports Network.