Photo by Matthew Giffin / Sidelines Contributor

Story by Matthew Giffin / Contributing Writer

Middle Tennessee State University (4-4, 2-2 Conference USA) overwhelmed the University of Southern Mississippi (1-7, 0-4 C-USA) for another turnover-filled victory for the Raiders’ homecoming game, 35-10.

The Golden Eagles tossed one into the endzone for an early lead after a failed first drive from Middle Tennessee, but apart from a field goal halfway through the third quarter, that was all the scoring MTSU would allow from Southern Miss on the night.

Also, the score didn’t reflect it, but starting quarterback Chase Cunningham went out of the game about eight minutes into the first quarter with what appeared to be a leg injury. The injury happened just as he threw an interception. Cunningham hobbled off the field with help and was later seen back on the field wearing a brace on his right leg.

Blue Raider Head Coach Rick Stockstill said after the game, “He’ll have an MRI either tonight or tomorrow… I don’t know yet, so we’ll see what comes back.”

While Cunningham’s future is uncertain, tonight was still a clear Middle Tennessee success, especially from the defense and special teams. Freshman Ralph Mency blocked a USM punt in the first that was scooped and scored by sophomore Tra Fluellen. To cap off the first half, freshman Deidrick Stanley II totally blindsided Eagles QB Jack Lange, forcing a fumble that was recovered and ran back for a TD by redshirt sophomore Jordan Branch. And late in the third, DQ Thomas snagged an airborne Southern Miss ball and went 43 yards for a pick six. Aside from scoring, the Raiders remain a national leader in takeaways, and redshirt junior Jordan Ferguson found 2.5 sacks. Ferguson has 7.5 sacks this season, the most in Conference USA.

“Cause havoc,” Thomas said after the game about his defense. “That’s what we try to do… [The offense] handled business last week, it’s our turn now.”

Second stringer Mike DiLiello filled in as quarterback for MTSU, with mixed results. He had two touchdown runs on the night and led the Blue Raiders with 77 rushing yards and 78 passing yards. However, when they were lined up on the USM goal line with a chance to make it a three-score game, DiLiello attempted to dive over the Eagles’ line with outstretched arms, and he fumbled the ball. The Raiders fumbled two more times on the night.

“Y’know, I thought he tried to do too much,” Stockstill said about DiLiello. “It’s really the first significant amount of snaps he’s had since he’s been here. I thought he was okay… He’ll get better… If Chase is out, he’ll get a bunch of snaps this week.”

The Raiders remain undefeated at home.

What’s Next:

Saturday, Nov. 6, the Blue Raiders travel down the 100 Miles of Hate to face off with Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.

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