Photo courtesy of MT Athletics
Story by David Jones / Contributing Writer
The Blue Raiders were on the road for the second week in the row as they traveled to Miami to face the Florida International Panthers on Saturday. Not only did the Blue Raiders lose the game 24-21 but also lost senior quarterback Brent Stockstill to injury in the second quarter with an apparent lower-body injury. He left the game, having completed six of seven passes for 28 yards.
Backup quarterback Asher O’Hara stepped up and nearly helped the Blue Raiders to what could’ve been their third consecutive conference win.
FIU was in control early, taking a 3-0 lead after their first drive. The Blue Raiders struggled early, but the Panthers didn’t take advantage of it on the scoreboard. The Panthers drove the ball for eight minutes and 33 seconds to Middle Tennessee State’s nine-yard line, but the Blue Raider defense held its own on fourth and two and stopped the Panthers from getting a first down.
The Blue Raider offense was starting to pick up after a couple of first downs and the momentum was leaning towards the Blue Raiders until Stockstill limped off the field after he completed a pass to Patrick Smith to put them at midfield.
However, O’Hara kept the drive going as he ran the ball six times for 25 yards before tossing it to running back Tavares Thomas, who ran it in for a seven-yard touchdown.
FIU responded, however, and another 10-plus play drive gave the Panthers a 13-7 lead with two minutes and 33 seconds left in the first half. The Blue Raiders responded with a short two-minute drive that ended with O’Hara running the ball in for six yards to earn his first career touchdown as a Blue Raider.
The Panthers managed to put points on the board before the half due to a pass interference call with 19 seconds left that allowed FIU to kick a field goal. The Blue Raiders entered halftime with a 14-13 lead.
Both teams came out sluggish in the second half as they both totaled for only 23 yards after one possession. Wide receiver Ty Lee gave the Blue Raiders the spark they needed after a 25-yard punt return that gave Middle Tennessee excellent field position starting at FIU’s 45-yard line.
After two runs from O’Hara, Lee came up big again with a 20-yard reception, putting the Blue Raiders deep into FIU’s territory at the five-yard line.
Thomas was able to capitalize for MTSU and ran a sweep to score his second rushing touchdown of the game and his fourth of the year.
The Blue Raider defense stepped up big and forced FIU to a missed 49-yard field goal, despite losing last week’s conference player of the week, Jovante Moffet, when he was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game.
However, the Blue Raiders squandered a good scoring opportunity, going three and out and giving the ball right back to the Panthers.
The Blue Raiders led 21-13 at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Panthers launched another five-minute drive and added three points early in the final quarter. The Blue Raider offense seemed to be one dimensional after the loss of Stockstill and only completed five passes after the senior quarterback went down.
FIU took advantage and connected on a couple of big plays through the air, including a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback James Morgan to wide receiver CJ Worton to give the Panthers a 24-21 lead.
The Blue Raiders made it interesting in the final moments and drove the ball down to FIU’s 15-yard line. O’ Hara led the team on that final drive with a total of 20 rushing yards and a key 28-yard completion to Lee on fourth down. However, the drive came to an end when O’Hara was intercepted by the Panther’s Olin Cushion III with 34 seconds left to give the Panthers their fourth win of the season.
The Blue Raiders will welcome Charlotte next week for Homecoming. The status for Stockstill is unknown on whether he will play or not. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. on Oct. 20.
To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email firstname.lastname@example.org.