Story by Britton Barnette / Contributing Writer
The Blue Raiders play under the Friday night lights this week as they travel to Charlotte for their second Conference USA matchup of the season. After falling to UTSA at the Alamodome last week, MTSU is looking to secure their first in-conference victory this year.
The Blue Raiders will be featuring a new face at quarterback this week, following the sudden departure of Bailey Hockman from the program. New quarterback Chase Cunningham already has some experience in this offense, throwing 19-for-30 with 259 yards and three touchdowns so far this season. Including a two touchdown performance in the closing minutes last week versus UTSA.
MTSU has faced Charlotte five times in football since both squads joined the conference in 2013, with MTSU winning four of the meetings. Charlotte won the most recent game in 2019 by a score of 34-20, but MTSU has scored 35 points or more in three of the five previous meetings, so they will be hoping to draw from their history to pull out their first conference win.
Charlotte’s season thus far has been up and down. After opening their season with a come from behind win against ACC opponent Duke and a blowout win against Gardner-Webb, they struggled to find their rhythm last week against Georgia State.
Charlotte will be looking to run the ball this week, as that has been their strategy so far this season, averaging 41.6 rushing attempts per game compared to 27.6 passing attempts. This could cause problems for a Blue Raiders team that has struggled to stop the ground game, allowing 189.3 rushing yards per game this year.
A big strength of the Raiders this season has been their passing attack, with an average of 240.6 yards per game through the air. Senior wideout Jimmy Marshall will need to continue his stellar season to get the Blue Raiders offense going. He already has 12 receptions for 177 yards and a touchdown, with his lone touchdown coming from a Chase Cunningham pass late last game.
On the other side of the ball, MTSU senior captain Reed Blankenship has an opportunity to break a 35-year old record at Middle Tennessee. Blankenship enters the Charlotte game with 335 career tackles from the safety position, and needs just 10 more stops to surpass Roosevelt Colvard as the school’s all-time leader.
MTSU is 0-1 in conference play this season, and Charlotte hasn’t played a conference game yet, so both teams will be anxious to get a digit in the win column this week.