Blue Raiders Fall Short in Comeback Against UTSA

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Middle Tennessee football had a shot late, but when a 4th and long pass with under five minutes to play was broken up down eight points, the last gasp from the Blue Raiders was unanswered, with MTSU falling 45-30 to UTSA on Friday night at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium.

The Blue Raiders (3-2, 0-1 C-USA) trailed 31-20 at the half but caught on fire on first defensively late in the second half, picking off the Roadrunners (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) three times in the second half, resulting in a net 10-point swing towards the Blue Raiders. But the early deficit was too much to overcome against the Roadrunners, as late rushes from UTSA’s running backs and dual threat quarterback Frank Harris helped ice the game in the closing minutes with a late rushing score with under two minutes to play

Jaylin Lane posted his best game of the season, catching 10 passes for 179 yards. Chase Cunningham attempted 56 passes, a career-high, completing 35 of those attempts for 368 yards.

Defensively, Zaylin Wood continued his excellent play from a week ago, finishing the night with seven tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup. Decorian Patter doubled his season interception total, hauling in two interceptions to increase his season total to four. Jordan Branch has the play of the night, fighting off a cut block to intercept Harris and return the catch 37-yards for MTSU’s second interception return for a touchdown in as many weeks.

By the Numbers

53: Darius Bracy’s 53-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the longest of the graduate transfer’s career. The Central Michigan transfer’s previous career long rush was a 48-yard gain at Missouri last season for the Chippewas.

4thDecorian Patterson snared his third interception of the season with his third quarter snag and his fourth of the season in the final frame, both off of Frank Harris. The Ocala, Fla. native’s previous season high in interceptions prior to 2022 was one, achieved in both 2021 and 2020.

37: The yardage on Jordan Branch’s interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It’s the second week in a row an MTSU defensive lineman has returned an interception for a touchdown.

Blue Raider Notes

CAPTAINS: Today’s game captains were Yusuf AliChase CunninghamJordan FergusonJaylin Lane, and Ja’Kerrius Wyatt.

TWO MORE IN THE BAG FOR WOOD: With two sacks in the first half, DL Zaylin Wood brought his total for the last two games to 4.0. Wood takes over the team lead for the season and becomes the first Blue Raider with two or more sacks in back-to-back games since Erik Walden in the final two games of the 2006 season.

BIG PICKS FOR PATTERSON: CB Decorian Patterson recorded a pair of big interceptions in the second half Friday night. His second interception in as many games came late in the third quarter, stopping a UTSA drive deep in Blue Raider territory. He brought another Roadrunner drive to halt with just over seven minutes left in regulation, picking off a deep pass down the sideline. That second pick was his team-leading fourth of the season and the sixth of his career. It went down as MTSU’s 12th takeaway of the season.

LANE BACK OVER 100: WR Jaylin Lane crossed the 100-yard receiving mark for the second time in as many games and the third time this season. Lane caught 10 passes for a career-high 179 yards and tied his career high of 10 receptions. He brought his team-leading season total to 410 yards.

DEFENSE TO THE HOUSE AGAIN: DL Jordan Branch’s fourth-quarter pick-six was the Blue Raiders’ third defensive score in five games and the second pick-six by a Blue Raider defensive lineman in as many weeks. Branch snagged a Frank Harris pass attempt at the line of scrimmage and ran it back 37 yards to pay dirt. It was Branch’s first career interception and first career touchdown. MTSU’s defense has now scored 11 times in the past three years combined.

BLUE RAIDERS IN CONFERENCE OPENERS: The Blue Raiders fell to 45-23-1 in conference openers since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 1952. MTSU is now 6-4 in Conference USA opening games and suffered just their sixth loss ever when opening conference play at home.

300 FOR CUNNINGHAM: QB Chase Cunningham reached the 300-yard mark for the second consecutive game and third time in his career. Cunningham completed 35 of 56 passes for 368 yards with 1 touchdown and no interceptions. His 35 completions set a new career high.

QUICK HITTERS:  DE Jordan Ferguson made his team-leading 27th consecutive start against UTSA today … Ferguson also played in his team-leading 50th career game … Darius Bracy’s 53-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the longest rush of his career and the longest by the Blue Raiders since Frank Peasant went 85 yards against Tennessee State on Sept. 17, 2022 … Zeke Rankin tied a career high with three made field goals … Tra Fluellen’s 11 tackles were the most of his Blue Raider career … MTSU’s three interceptions were a season-high and gave the Blue Raiders multiple interceptions in four straight games.

Thoughts from Head Coach Rick Stockstill 

“Disappointed that we lost, but proud of our team, the effort that they played with and the never-give-up attitude. We fought our guts out, we didn’t play real good first half defensively. We gave up too many explosive plays. We knew coming in how talented that quarterback and those receivers were and it lived up to the billing. Really good football team, very athletic, they can run.

“We hung in there with them, we kept fighting and got it to a one score game with handful of minutes left. Just couldn’t get one more stop.”
Up Next

Middle Tennessee will drive across the Tennessee-Alabama border for a game with UAB in Birmingham on Saturday, October 8. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on Stadium and the Blue Raider Radio Network.

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