From the time that Tony Franklin was hired as offensive coordinator in January, hype has swirled around the MTSU offense. Blue Raiders fans got their first look at that offense Saturday, Sept. 3, when MT took on Alabama A&M, and they were not disappointed.
Those in attendance did not wait long to hear the familiar phrase “Stockstill to James” as the two connected on the first snap of the game. However, it was Murfreesboro native I’Tavius Mathers who scored the first touchdown of the game as he broke free for a 32-yard touchdown run on just his second touch.
Mathers could hardly hide a smile after the game, as he fielded questions about his return to the ’Boro.
“All week I’ve been pretty nervous about it,” admitted Mathers. “I felt like a freshman playing my first game. But after the first couple runs, it felt normal.”
When asked how it felt to score a touchdown in Murfreesboro again, Mathers replied, “It felt pretty good. I got to give credit to the offensive line and receivers for blocking it up and making my job easy just running into the end zone.”
Mathers wasn’t the only Murfreesboro native to deliver a strong showing early, however.
Brent Stockstill had a stellar first quarter with three touchdown passes. The first was a shoulder pass to heavily covered sophomore Desmond Anderson that was too beautiful for words.
On the next possession, Stockstill hit redshirt senior Demetrius Frazier over the middle for his second touchdown pass, but it was marred when Frazier suffered a lower-leg injury as he celebrated. No word has come down on the severity of the injury as of the writing of this article, however early speculation suggests Frazier will not return this season.
The next possession would hold greater fortune. With 1:54 left in the first quarter, Stockstill hit walk-on Patrick Smith for a 42-yard touchdown pass. The score marked the 20th consecutive completion for Stockstill, breaking Logan Kilgore’s record of 19 that was set against Florida Atlantic in 2011. Stockstill went on to complete his next two passes before he threw his first incompletion early in the second quarter.
With such an accomplishment a player should have license to take credit, however Stockstill refused.
“I thought coach Franklin did a great job preparing not only me, but this team throughout the whole offseason,” Stockstill stated, “So, coming into the game I was extremely confident, and I guess to complete 22 straight balls 22 guys have got to catch it. So, credit goes to those guys, and the offensive line did a great job protecting me all night.”
In the second quarter, Stockstill found Richie James and Dennis Andrews, a graduate transfer from Georgia Tech playing his first game as a wide receiver, for two more touchdown passes.
Leading 42–0 at the half, the starters rested for the rest of the night. Among those starters was true freshman Ty Lee. Lee caught all four passes thrown his way for 42 yards.
“I’m proud of him. He came in and worked hard and he deserves it every little bit,” said Richie James, who happens to be Lee’s roommate.
With no starters playing in the second half the scoring slowed a bit. The lone touchdown of the half came early in the fourth quarter when redshirt freshman John Urzua hit true freshman Tyshawn Brown for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Brown, recruited to play safety, has been move to receiver to compensate for the rash of injuries at the position.
When all the dust had settled, the Blue Raiders walked away with a 55–0 victory over AAMU. Many praises will be sung for the offense, but the defense deserves a lot of credit. It is quite an accomplishment to shutout any opponent at the collegiate level. While no one player particularly stood out on defense, the unit seemed to play more cohesively than they did a year ago.
The Blue Raiders get back in action Saturday, Sept. 10, when they take a short trip to Nashville to play Vanderbilt.