Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (8-5, 7-1) took on the Appalachian State Mountaineers (10-2, 7-1) in the 2018 New Orleans Bowl inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday night, where they struggled all night to get into any kind of rhythm.
The defense stepped up early, but the offense was abysmal for the entire game and App State took advantage of MTSU’s mistakes early to mount a large enough lead by halftime to set it on cruise control. However, that did not stop the Mountaineers from tacking on a few more touchdown’s in the second half before walking away as New Orleans Bowl champions over the Blue Raiders, 45-13.
The Blue Raiders got the ball to begin the game and were able to get into field goal range, but Crew Holt missed the mark. It was the beginning of a vicious cycle for MTSU. The Blue Raider defense stepped up big in the first quarter and produced two turnovers (one interception, one pick) and gave the Blue Raider offense great field position. However, MTSU was only able to muster three points to take a 3-0 lead going into the second quarter.
That is when the wheels started to come off, and the Mountaineers started to roll. App State scored 24 unanswered points with the help of some trick plays and two various versions of the infamous trick play that the Philadelphia Eagles ran in Super Bowl LII, known as the Philly Special.
Following the Mountaineers’ first touchdown, they tried to catch the Blue Raiders off guard with an onside kick. Although, it was unsuccessful. That set the Brent Stockstill and the offense up in great field position, but Stockstill threw an interception of the ensuing drive to give the ball right back to App State. It was one of two questionable decisions by the senior signal-caller in what was his final collegiate game ever.
Stockstill threw his second interception in the second quarter after scrambling to his left to avoid pressure from the App State defense and threw the ball up for grabs in the middle of the field, which was easily intercepted.
The Blue Raiders were able to put a decent drive together to close out the first half but still faced a 24-6 deficit going into halftime.
There was no changing of the tide for MTSU in the final half of play. The Blue Raider defense, which has been phenomenal on the second half all season, gave up another 21 points to the Mountaineers, while the Blue Raider offense continued to be stuck in neutral. The Blue Raiders were able to put one touchdown on the board, but it was too little too late.
The waning moments were somber and quiet on the Blue Raider sideline. MTSU had their worst showing all season in their final game of the 2018 season. For Brent Stockstill, he closed out his career with two crushing losses and finished with a 1-3 record in bowl games. Although Stockstill has been a major reason in the team’s biggest wins this season, it’s hard to not analyze his performance as disappointing against the Mountaineers.
The Blue Raiders had a successful season in 2018 but did not close out on the big stages. They lost to UAB two weeks ago in devastating but close fashion and lost to App State and were dominated from start to finish. It’s a tough pill to swallow for the Blue Raider nation, but one that can be remembered for some of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows as the New Orleans Bowl showed.
To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email email@example.com.