Middle Tennessee got off to a fast start in its quest for a win in the Hawaii Bowl but it appeared high tide came early for the Blue Raiders in a 52-35 setback here Saturday night.
The Blue Raiders (8-5) jumped out to a 14-0 lead and grabbed early momentum against the homestanding Rainbow Warriors (7-7) but a serious of turnovers quickly shifted things in Hawaii’s favor.
Hawaii took advantage of three Middle Tennessee turnovers and converted each into touchdowns, including an interception for touchdown to swing the pendulum its way. Those miscues, coupled with the Blue Raiders’ inability to slow Hawaii, hampered Middle Tennessee’s pursuit of its ninth win.
Quarterback Brent Stockstill made his return to the lineup and responded in strong fashion with a Middle Tennessee bowl record performance. Stockstill completed 30-of-51 passes for 432 yards. He also threw four touchdowns but was also responsible for two interceptions. It marked the fourth time this season and sixth time in Stockstill’s career that he passed for more than 400 yards and threw four or more touchdowns.
Receiver Richie James also had a huge game. James also set a Middle Tennessee bowl game standard with 162 yards on just eight catches. James reeled in a touchdown. Ty Lee also had a strong receiving game. Lee had 10 receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Dennis Andrews had four grabs for 58 yards and a score.
Running back I’Tavius Mathers added 57 yards rushing and scored on a 20-yard run.
Darius Harris led the defense with nine tackles, including one sack and three tackles for loss.
Middle Tennessee piled up 542 yards total offense, including 432 through the air, but the three turnovers and the Blue Raiders’ inability to stop the Rainbow Warriors proved too much.
MT POSTGAME NOTES
CAPTAINS: Today’s game captains were LB DJ Sanders, QB Brent Stockstill, RB I’Tavius Mathers and DT Raynard Felton.PASSING RECORDS FALL: Middle Tennessee, which had already set numerous offensive records this season, added a few more on Saturday. The Blue Raiders broke the passing yards, pass completions and pass attempts marks after completing 30-of-51 passes for 432 yards against the Rainbows. MT finished with 4,236 total passing yards on the season while completing 349 of 556 passes.JAMES SETS BOWL MARK: WR Richie James set a new bowl receiving record with 162 yards against Hawaii. The previous mark was 126 yards by James against Western Michigan in the 2015 Bahamas Bowl. James actually surpassed the mark today in the first half.14 FOR RICHIE: Wide receiver Richie James turned in his 14th career 100-yard receiving game in the Hawaii Bowl against Hawaii. James had 8 catches for 162 yards to equal the school record of 14 held by Kendall Newson. It was also his ninth of the season.14 FOR BRENT: QB Brent Stockstill made his return to the Blue Raider lineup after missing three games with an injury and promptly added another 300-yard passing game. Stockstill threw for an MT bowl record 432 yards for his school career record of 14. He has six 300-yard games in 2016. QUICK HITTERS: QB Brent Stockstill had his fourth game this season of four or more TD passes and it was the sixth of his career … MT scored a TD on its opening possession for the sixth time this season … Richie James has now caught at least one pass in 26 straight games which ties for the fifth longest streak in school history … DT Shaquille Huff started his team-leading 38th straight game today … Steven Rhodes, Shaquille Huff, and Hunter Rogers all played in their team-leading 51st career game today which is the second most in school history and one shy of the all-time mark of 52 … The 51-yard pass from Brent Stockstill to Richie James was the longest in MT bowl history … The 35 first half points by Hawaii are the most MT has ever allowed in a half in its bowl history … LB Darius Harris turned in a career-best 3.0 TFLs.