Sunday, October 1, 2023

Football: Blankenship carted off, Raiders collapse in final drive loss to North Texas


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Denton, Tx- MTSU (2-5, 1-2) and North Texas (3-4, 2-1) competed for 60 minutes on a Saturday afternoon in Denton– not to see who could win but rather to see who could throw the game harder.

Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders at the end of 60 minutes, the Mean Green emerged from the debris as victors with Ethan Mooney’s 22-yard chip shot field goal being the difference in a 33-30 win for North Texas.

MTSU star safety Reed Blankenship was carted off the field during the 3rd quarter after apparently injuring his ankle. He was carried off with a cast around his foot and he is likely to miss major time, if at all return this season.

As one of the leading tacklers and best players on the team, the loss of Blankenship is a season-altering injury that will directly harm the effectiveness of the defense moving forward.

Mason Fine did not have one of his better outings tossing two interceptions, but did just enough to claim victory racking up 375 yards in the air as well as a touchdown through the air and on the ground.

Asher O’Hara had another poor performance throwing for 136 yards on 32 attempts and gaining 82 yards on the ground including one touchdown. But O’Hara threw multiple poor balls into coverage with a litany of interceptable passes dropped by UNT defensive backs.

O’Hara’s bad day combined was a leading cause in another day of futility for the entire offensive unit which were putrid in the red zone, scoring once in four trips with O’Hara under center as the worst red zone offense in Conference USA lived up to its own statistic.

O’Hara was pulled early in the fourth quarter for what seemed to be a hand or arm injury and forced backup Chase Cunningham into action.

Cunningham was less than sharp, overthrowing multiple open receivers, but sparked enough of the offense to get MTSU back into the game late with two touchdown drives to tie the game at 30 a piece.

Cunningham was given the chance to drive down to tie the game thanks to a fumble forced by linebacker DQ Thomas. Cunningham overshot an open receiver on the 4th down prior that went straight into the hands of a UNT defensive back.

However, with 30 seconds on the clock, MTSU’s special teams gave up a long return on the kickoff to put the Mean Green in touching distance of a game winning field goal. On the final offensive play from scrimmage, Fine delivered a strike to Jaelon Darden for 28 yards that all but sealed the game winning kick.

The man that would have been in the coverage for the substituted Kylan Stribling likely would have been Blankenship.

What’s next:

MTSU will finally return home where it will hope to get back on track with a Homecoming game against Florida International. The Panthers are 3-3 on the year, 1-2 in Conference USA play and led at quarterback by senior James Morgan who has been deadly for Butch Davis’ team.

The health of O’Hara will also be heavily monitored with another quarterback decision perhaps looming for head coach Rick Stockstill in late October.

To contact Sports Editor Elijah Campbell, email

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

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