Football: Blue Raiders earn first win of season in high-scoring affair against UT-Martin

Redshirt freshman Wayne Parks returns botched punt for a Blue Raider special teams touchdown on Sep. 8, 2018, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines)

Photos by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines

Story by Nathan Vaughan / Staff Writer

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders won their first game of the 2018 season over UT-Martin 61-37 in Floyd Stadium on Saturday in a game dominated by the offenses. It wasn’t pretty, but winning isn’t easy, according to MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill. Both teams went over 450 total yards, with a majority of it coming through the air. The Skyhawks and Blue Raiders traded blows throughout the game, but MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill led the home team past the upset-minded visitors.

Another electric opening

Like Vanderbilt the week prior, MTSU found itself facing a deficit after the first possession as UT-Martin running back LaDarius Galloway went 20 yards on the opening play, and quarterback Dresser Winn connected with Jaylon Moore to get in the red zone. Winn would finish the drive by throwing a strike to Devonte Howard to put the Skyhawks in the lead.

It didn’t take long for the Blue Raiders to respond. Brent Stockstill found one of his new favorite targets, wide receiver C.J. Windham, for a 56-yard score to tie the game. On the following Blue Raider drive, it would be deja vu, as Stockstill found Windham again to give MTSU a 14-7 lead.

MTSU and UT-Martin traded turnovers to end the first quarter with Stockstill fumbling after the ball slipped from his hand inside the UT-Martin 10 yard line. Blue Raider defensive back Darryl Randolph then intercepted Winn on the next play to give possession back to MTSU.

Next man up mentality

A long list of injuries took many Blue Raiders out of the lineup, and a few reserve players made the difference for MTSU. Chaton Mobley got the nod as the starting tailback after converting from linebacker for MTSU and rewarded the coaching staff’s decision by scoring two touchdowns.

“I knew when Tavares and (Maurice Gordon) went down, I was the next man up, and I had to step up,” Mobley said. “It felt amazing (to score a touchdown) after not playing for two years.”

Former walk-on Patrick Smith had a career night as he tallied five catches for 87 yards and three touchdowns.

“Me and Brent just started connecting,” Smith said. “(Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin) asked what I wanted at halftime, and they started delivering.”

“He’s the epitome of a tough guy,” Brent Stockstill said. “I love Pat.”

Brad Anderson made waves as a freshman at running back but switched positions to receiver after injuries. Despite having no experience at the position, Anderson was a key third-down target for Brent Stockstill multiple times and finished with six catches for 141 yards.

“He’s one of my favorite players,” Brent Stockstill said. “One of the toughest guys I know. He’s never played receiver in his life, and now he’s started playing college football at slot receiver.”

Defense gives up sky-high numbers again

After UT-Martin finished with 460 total yards and 37 points against MTSU, Rick Stockstill voiced his displeasure with the unit as a whole.

“We missed so many tackles,” Stockstill said. “I didn’t like the urgency we lined up with.”

With the number of injuries, especially in the secondary, the Blue Raiders could be excused for a performance like that, but Stockstill wouldn’t accept that conclusion.

“We have improvements to make in all three phases of the game,” Stockstill said.

What’s next?

MTSU will face its toughest test of the season when it goes “Between the Hedges” at Sanford Stadium for a showdown with defending SEC Champions Georgia.

“That’s fun, (playing Georgia),” Brent Stockstill said. “We got to do that a couple of years ago against Alabama. So, going into their place, we’ve got a lot of guys from the state of Georgia. We’re going in there swinging, so it’ll be a battle.”

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