Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Football: Blue Raiders cap off upset, comeback on 2-point conversion against C-USA champs Florida Atlantic


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Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines

Lane Kiffin, the second year head coach of Florida Atlantic, had not lost to a Conference USA opponent during his tenure with the Owls.

That changed Saturday night in Floyd Stadium.

“That’s the best win I’ve been a part of here,” said quarterback Brent Stockstill.

Brent Stockstill’s bootleg two-point conversion throw to Gatlin Casey put the MTSU Blue Raider football team over the top against FAU in front of a “blackout” crowd. The loss snaps an eight-game winning streak for the Owls in conference play.

“This was a fantastic win. You beat a team like that, coming in the underdog. (MTSU) strained and competed and played their tails off and never gave up,” said head coach Rick Stockstill.

Defense suffers another slow start but only allows three points in the second half

For the fourth consecutive game, the MTSU defense let up an opening drive touchdown. FAU quarterback Chris Robison and running back Devin Singletary moved the ball in chunks down the field with Singletary pushing his way into the end zone to put the Owls 7-0 up five minutes into the game

Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer wasn’t worried about the trend.

“It’s always adjustment football. (FAU) had a 12-personnel that we hadn’t prepared for. Adjustment is what it’s all about,” Shafer said.

Comeback kids

With 2:12 remaining in the first half, MTSU found itself down 21-3 to FAU. The Blue Raiders stayed cool and responded by outscoring the Owls 22-3 for the remainder of the game.

“This team showed a lot of mental and physical toughness tonight, and I’m really, really proud of them tonight,” Rick Stockstill said.

FAU had 301 yards in the first half, but only gained 125 yards in the second half. The Owls’ field goal, their lone score of the half, came after an interception, and FAU went three and out on the drive.

“We did not play very well on offense in the second half. We got embarrassed,” Kiffin said.

MTSU was perfect on fourth-down conversions in the second half, while FAU went 0-for-2, including a crucial fourth and inches in the fourth quarter.

“Really proud of the team on fourth down. (FAU) had gone for it 13 times this year. There’s one time we stopped them on fourth down, and my knucklehead brain was like, ‘Get ready for fourth down,'” Shafer said.

Brent Stockstill had two turnovers: an interception which bounced off Ty Lee and picked by Owls linebacker Rashad Smith and a fumble on a quarterback keeper that slipped out of his hands.

These mistakes didn’t rattle the veteran signal caller who drove down the field and converted on a fourth down scramble that eventually set up Thomas’ game-winning touchdown run.

“(After the fumble) I’m just going to try and run through people and see how that works out. It got me down there, and Tavares finished it off,” Brent Stockstill said.

Safety blankets return

After missing the start of the season, Jovante Moffatt made a triumphant return to the field, as did Reed Blankenship who missed the Georgia game.

Moffatt secured the game-clinching interception as well as laying a monster hit in the third quarter.

Blankenship racked up 10 tackles and one and a half tackles for a loss in his return, which led the team.

“He’s a veteran, and last year, he taught me a lot. I knew he had his side of the ball, and I had mine, so I loved it,” Blankenship said of Moffatt.

What’s next

Middle Tennessee has a short week ahead before meeting Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia, on Friday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 on CBS Sports Network. The Thundering Herd beat MTSU in last season’s “blackout” game in Murfreesboro 38-10 and lead the all-time series 5-2.

“They’re not giving us any points because we beat Florida Atlantic. This conference is very competitive. There ain’t a whole lot of separation between a lot of teams. We got to enjoy tonight and come back tomorrow ready to roll,” Rick Stockstill said.

To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, 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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