Story by Matthew Giffin / Contributing Writer
Middle Tennessee State University’s (1-1, 0-0 Conference USA) second outing of the season was a devastating but predictable tale of two halves. The Raiders put up a good fight early on but fell 35-14 to the Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) as the game clock wound down.
From kickoff, the Blue Raider defense was a force to be reckoned with. They shut down the Hokies’ first drive in dominant fashion and forced them to punt after forcing Virginia Tech back 14 yards, allowing nothing past the line of scrimmage. By the end of the half, MTSU’s defense totaled 35 tackles, five of those being tackles for loss and one being the only sack of the game by senior DQ Thomas. MTSU held the Hokies to two trips to the endzone.
The Raiders also did well with the ball in their hands. Senior Bailey Hockman went into halftime with 124 passing yards and completed 10 out of 15 passes. With five minutes left in the second quarter, he connected with senior CJ Windham on a perfectly placed five-yarder that was originally called incomplete by the officials, but was overturned and ruled a touchdown after reviewing the play.
The score at the half was 14-7, Virginia Tech leading. Until then, the game seemed more competitive than anyone thought, but that was before the Hokies’ adjustment.
MTSU could not contain Virginia Tech on the run, especially junior Raheem Blackshear, who scored twice in the half and finished the game with 54 rushing yards. Burmeister would not score again, but he continued contributing yardage throughout the game, both running and throwing.
Once again, the Blue Raiders’ running game never got the jumpstart it needed. Amir Rasul led MTSU with 44 rushing yards, averaging only 2.8 yards per carry.
Hockman’s performance against the Hokies was better than the last time he faced them while he was at North Carolina State a year ago, but it was not enough. He threw 19-32 for the game with an interception to give Virginia the ball in the third.
Junior QB Chase Cunningham subbed in with five minutes left in the game and gave the Raiders their final score. He led them all the way from their own 14 yard line, throwing 7-8 with 76 passing yards and a toss to Marquel Tinsley for the TD, all in one drive.
And, as expected, the crowd at Lane Stadium made their presence felt with deafening roaring and cheering throughout the game.
On September 18, the Raiders will play their first in-conference game against the University of Texas at San Antonio, on the road yet again. The game will be available for viewing on ESPN+ at 5 p.m., Central Standard Time.