Story by Matthew Giffin / Contributing Writer
Middle Tennessee State University (2-3, 1-2 Conference USA) came out of Floyd Stadium on Saturday night with their first in-conference win (34-28) in an upset against Marshall University (2-3, 0-1 Conference USA).
The Raiders started off strong against the Thundering Herd, not giving an inch to the Marshall offense on their first drive. Then the MTSU offense took the ball, drove 62 yards downfield, and backup quarterback Mike DiLiello scored with a walk into the endzone for his first touchdown this season. Chase Cunningham threw two TD’s in the first half, both of them incredible grabs by Jarrin Pierce and Jaylin Lane. Chaton Mobley bolted straight through the Herd’s defense for his own 41-yard score. At the half, the Raiders were up (28-14), their best performance in a single half in 2021.
The final MTSU score of the night came from a third quarter, 90-yard fumble recovery, taken to the house by free safety Reed Blankenship. Marshall attempted a comeback in the fourth, marching to the endzone twice and narrowing the Raiders’ lead to six points. But after the Herd’s final touchdown, the officials penalized them for illegal touching on an onside kick. With only a minute left in the game, Middle Tennessee took the ball and assumed victory formation.
The Blue Raider offense excelled in the running game for the first time this season, even outdoing the passing game. MTSU rushed for a total of 209 yards, led by Mobley who rushed for 132 yards. Cunningham gained 46 yards on the run also.
Despite the impressive offensive performances, forced turnovers were a hallmark of this game, coming from both teams and eventually turning the tide in favor of the Blue Raiders. Marshall fumbled the ball four times, and Middle Tennessee fumbled once. The Thundering Herd also suffered two interceptions thrown by Grant Wells, and Cunningham threw an interception for the Blue Raiders in the third quarter.
Not only that, but both the Raiders and the Herd were bombarded with heavy rain throughout the first half of play, though they endured the slippery gridiron and wet footballs. However, the real downpour didn’t come until halftime with strong winds and a deluge of water assaulting players and spectators alike. Some fans migrated underneath the stands while many fled the stadium. However, the storm lifted early in the third quarter.
Blankenship had five solo tackles against the Herd, making for a career total of 218, breaking the Middle Tennessee record. Last week against Charlotte, Blankenship also broke the MTSU record for all career tackles. He now ranks fifth nationally among current NCAA players for solo career tackles.
Next week, the Blue Raiders go back on the road to Virginia to fend off the Liberty Flames. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m., and the game will be available for viewing on ESPN3.