Saturday, January 28, 2023

Football: Blue Raiders cruise to fourth consecutive win, look to Kentucky next


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Photo courtesy of MT Athletics

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders eclipsed a season high in total yards and cruised past the University of Texas at El Paso Miners in a 48-32 victory Saturday at the Sun Bowl Stadium to push the team to 7-3 for the season. After a game where the Blue Raiders ran for nearly 250 yards, the team went back to the air attack as quarterback Brent Stockstill threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns against the Miners. Receiver Ty Lee had a big game, as he picked up 10 receptions for 158 yards and a score. The Blue Raiders defense shut the Miners out in the first and third quarter with help from their secondary, as cornerback OJ Johnson had a forced fumble and an interception while Wesley Bush looked more like Reggie Bush with a 75-yard pick six.

Blue Raider dominate early

MTSU started the game with a long drive that consisted a balanced offensive attack. Running backs Zack Dobson and Tavares Thomas helped the Blue Raiders score first as Dobson broke for 26 yards and Thomas capped the drive off with a 13-yard touchdown reception.

After cornerback OJ Johnson ripped the ball out from Miner receiver Keynan Foster, MTSU had a short field to work with and only took six plays to put them up 14-0. Stockstill threw a 28-yard strike to his favorite target Ty Lee to get them to the one yard line where Tavare Thomas ran it in to get his second touchdown of the game.

Stockstill and Lee come to play

The Miners kept the game close after a Blue Raider personal foul and a touchdown run to make it 14-7. MTSU attempted to answer back after Stockstill connected with Lee again for 34 yards to flip the field and put the Blue Raiders in Miner territory. The drive stalled there and Blue Raider kicker Crews Holt missed a 40-yard field goal. UTEP didn’t capitalize the great field position, as they went three-and-out and gave the ball right back to the Blue Raiders.

Starting safety Reed Blankenship was inserted into the offense and got loose for a 15-yard run to set up a pretty touchdown pass from Stockstill to Lee again, and the lead was stretched to 20-7. After a field goal by the Miners, MTSU put up a late touchdown when Stockstill slung the ball 18 yards to Zack Dobson, who made an acrobatic catch. Thhe lead was then 27-10 at halftime.

The second half started much like the first half. The Blue Raiders and their smothering defense stopped the Miners from gaining a first down. Déjà vu occurred for the offense when Stockstill went deep to Lee for 34 yards on fourth down to put MTSU on UTEP’s two-yard line. Running back Chaton Mobley finished the drive off with his first touchdown of the game.

A crazy fourth quarter

After being shut out in the first and third quarter, the Miners came out and scored 22 in the fourth and made the game look closer than it actually was. The Miners had a productive game from their running back Quardraiz Wadley, who ran for 99 yards in the game. Wadley had a 46-yard run in the fourth quarter and had one of four touchdowns that the Miners scored in the fourth.

Cornerback Wesley Bush got himself a pick six after he intercepted UTEP’s quarteback Kai Locksley and returned it for 75 yards. That put the game all the way out of reach, even with UTEP scoring two more times. The Blue Raiders ultimately finished on top 48-32.

What’s next?

The Blue Raiders travel to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. This is the MTSU’s third game this season against an SEC opponent. The Blue Raiders lost to the Georgia and Vanderbilt earlier this season, but they are 6-1 since then and hope to get an upset over Kentucky who are ranked 11 in the nation as of now.

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