A four-turnover third quarter stalled out the comeback attempt out of the halftime locker room, as the Middle Tennessee football team fell on the road to LA Tech 40-24 on Saturday afternoon in Joe Aillet Stadium.
After a touchdown pass from Chase Cunningham to Jaylin Lane at the end of the first half pulled MTSU within a single score, 27-21, at the half, MTSU would throw interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, on its next three drives, followed by drives ending with a blocked punt and a lost fumble. While the Blue Raiders (4-5, 1-4 C-USA) never gave up a touchdown on defense in the third quarter, the Bulldogs (3-6, 2-3 C-USA) chipped in enough field goals to pull away.
Terry Wilkins gave MTSU an early lead in the first quarter, scampering for a 69-yard touchdown for his first collegiate score. He would finish with 85 yards on four carries, trailing only Frank Peasant (90 yards) on the ground for the Blue Raiders. Both Peasant and Cunningham scored rushing touchdowns on the afternoon.
Defensively, Teldrick Ross gave MTSU a spark with his first interception of the season, cutting under a route in the third quarter to snag the pick. He also broke up three Bulldog passes.
By the Numbers
193: Rushing yards for the Blue Raiders on Saturday, their most against an FBS opponent this season. MTSU previously rushed for 233 yards against Tennessee State.
40 for 40: Number of spot kicks made for Zeke Rankin this season, who has not missed any of his attempts in 2022. The sophomore has made all nine of his field goals and all 31 of his PATs.
9: MTSU tallied nine pass breakups on Saturday, helping keep the short passing game for the Bulldogs in check. LA Tech’s quarterbacks finished just 17-for-37 passing, a 46 percent completion percentage.
Blue Raider Notes
WILKINS SCORES: Redshirt freshman running back Terry Wilkins, out of Memphis, Tenn., scored his first collegiate touchdown in the first quarter against LA Tech. Wilkins, who entered the game with just 13 career carries, scampered 69 yards for the score and put MTSU up 7-0. It was the second longest run from scrimmage by the Blue Raiders this season. Wilkins finished the game with a career-best 85 rushing yards.
GROUND GAME: Middle Tennessee enjoyed a nice game on the ground against the Bulldogs. MTSU finished with 193 yards which went down as the second most this season here. The Blue Raiders had 156 yards on the ground at halftime which was second most for a total game this season behind the 226 rushing yards amassed against TSU.
ROSS PICK: Teldrick Ross, who recently moved from safety to cornerback, recorded his first interception of the season in the third quarter. Ross’ pick was timely as it stopped an LA Tech scoring threat following a Blue Raider interception. It went down as Ross’ second career pick and first since last season against Monmouth.
QUICK HITTERS: Jordan Ferguson made his 31st consecutive start against LA Tech today while Kyle Ulbrich made his 35th in a row … Ferguson also played in his team-leading 54th career game … Middle Tennessee’s nine pass breakups were a season high and tied for the most since 2018 … Christian Dixon and Jalen Rayam both made their first career Blue Raider starts today vs LT … The blocked punt by LA Tech in the third quarter was the first allowed by MTSU since North Texas rejected one on Oct. 19, 2019 … Bryce Bailey’s three receptions and 46 receiving yards were new career highs.
Thoughts from Head Coach Rick Stockstill
“It was a perfect recipe of when you give up explosive plays like that, you turn the ball over, it’s a recipe for disaster. The first half, defensively, we gave up too many big balls, explosive plays. But we battled back in it. We’ve got a six point deficit at the second half.
“Then the third quarter is just a turnover fest. Throw an interception there, then the defense did a good job of getting an interception. The next one’s a pick-six off the screen pass. Just didn’t play well enough, execute well enough, do the things that you have to do to win a football game.”
The Blue Raiders return home for the first half of a two-game home stand next week, taking on the Charlotte 49ers at 2:30 p.m. CT in Floyd Stadium. Broadcast coverage is scheduled on ESPN3, as well as the Blue Raider Radio Network.
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