Thursday, March 23, 2023

Short-handed Blue Raiders down Charlotte in defensive clinic


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Story by Calvin White/ Sports Editor

Without five starters, including starting quarterback Chase Cunningham, MTSU put on a defensive clinic in a 24-14 victory over the visiting Charlotte 49ers at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium on Salute to Veterans Day.

All season long, MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill has talked about his team finding its identity. With all the injuries that the Blue Raiders have sustained throughout the season, it has been hard to tell what the identity of this football team is.

“We’re still kind of a band-aid offensively,” Stockstill said. “I still think we haven’t reached our full potential yet offensively. We’re just a tough, hard-nosed blue-collar team right now.”

Nicholas Vattiato was tasked with filling in for Cunningham at quarterback for the second time in as many seasons. The true sophomore finished 22-29 for 203 yards and a 76 percent completion rate.

“I love Nick,” Stockstill said.” He’s a very, very unselfish young man. He cares more about the team than he cares about himself.”

Blue Raider running back Frank Peasant racked up 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Peasant constantly wore the Charlotte defense down in the second half to control the clock and remove all doubt.

MTSU shut the 49ers out in the second half, led by safety Tra Fluellen who totaled 16 tackles on the night including 1.5 tackles for loss.

“I just gave effort, did what I was supposed to do,” Fluellen said. “Nothing really special, we’re just making the play.”

The Blue Raider special teams blocked two kicks, a field goal on Charlotte’s first drive and a punt in the second half. Decorian Patterson blocked the field goal and Marley Cook blocked the punt that Jordan Ferguson returned for a touchdown.

With the win, the Blue Raiders move to 5-5 overall and are one win away from bowl eligibility. They will host FAU (5-5) Nov. 19 then visit FIU (4-6) to close out the regular season.

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