The heated rivalry between MTSU and WKU, known as 100 Miles of Hate, was renewed Oct. 15, and it played out exactly as any great rivalry should.
The Hilltopper offense got to work quickly, as they advanced all the way down to the MT 2-yard line on their first possession, but a fumble by WKU quarterback Mike White halted the drive. Hilltopper coach Jeff Brohm proved to be overly confident as his fake field goal play call was snuffed out for a 17-yard loss.
The Blue Raiders capitalized on the turnover, and were the first on the scoreboard. A 26-yard reception by Dennis Andrews was as the biggest catalyst of the drive as the play set-up a 36-yard field goal by Canon Rooker.
The Hilltoppers answered back quickly, however. Despite facing a 1st and 25 situation after being called for a personal foul, White turned around the Tops’ fortune by hitting Nacarius Fant for a 35-yard gain. Fant then exchanged words with MT cornerback Mike Minter, but it was Minter who was flagged for the personal foul after responding with a slight headbutt, thus giving the Hilltoppers a 50-yard gain on the play. The Blue Raider defense held it together after the penalty, however, and limited WKU to just a field goal.
The two teams traded scores on each possession of the 2nd quarter which included a touchdown run from I’Tavius Mathers and a touchdown connection between Brent Stockstill and Richie James. The teams went into the half tied at 20, however WKU would get the lone score of the third quarter to give them the 27–20 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Yet, the Blue Raider offense evened the score at the beginning of the fourth quarter on another big Stockstill to James hook-up of 38 yards which capped a 96-yard drive.
After the score, the MT defense played its best defense of the day, forcing a 3-and-out on Western’s next possession. The Blue Raiders found themselves in the red zone with a chance to go up two touchdowns on the next possession. However, Desmond Anderson lost the ball as he was hit trying to reel in Stockstill’s pass on a bubble screen. The deflection landed easily in the arms of WKU linebacker Keith Brown. Brown returned the interception to the MT 33 before being tripped up by Stockstill who had been knocked to the ground by a blocker.
In spite of the unfortunate turn of events, the Blue Raiders defense came up huge. With the Hilltopper offense threatening in the red zone, MT defensive lineman Raynard Felton sacked White and forced a fumble in the process. The ball bounced back several yards as both Blue Raiders and Hilltoppers gave chase, but it was WKU running back Quinton Baker who would come up with it. The recovery set up 3rd and 40 for the Tops. A 21-yard pass put WKU in field goal range, but kicker Skyler Simcox’s kick from 49 yards out fell short.
Mathers produced his longest run of the game on the ensuing possession as he broke free for 41 yards to the WKU 27. The Blue Raider offense eventually stalled at the WKU 8, but Canon Rooker was good on his third field goal of the day to put MT up 30–27.
On the Hilltoppers next possession, White spotted receiver Taywan Taylor downfield and threw up a jump ball. Taylor and MT cornerback Jeremy Cutrer both went up for the pass, but it was Cutrer who came down with it.
Taking possession with only 2:52 remaining in the game, the offense needed only to run out the game clock to claim the victory. On a first down which was brought up by a 16-yard run by Mathers, coach Rick Stockstill made a controversial decision. As opposed to continuing to run the ball, Stockstill opted for a bubble screen. Brent Stockstill would make one of his few miscues on the play, as the throw was hardly catchable for targeted receiver Ty Lee. The play killed all momentum for Middle, as they were forced to punt.
Coach Stock later explained the questionable play call.
“We weren’t going to be able to just run the ball and get a first down to run out the clock. We had to throw it, and that’s normally a safe play, a safe pass where you can catch it and keep the clock running,” Coach Stock said. “Trying to win it was the mentality.”
The MT defense found itself in a precarious situation. They seemed to have had the Hilltoppers stopped, but allowed a 23-yard pass to Fant on 4th and 3, and a 34-yard pass to Taylor on the next play. White was forced out-of-bounds inside the 1 on a scramble, but the MT defense was able to hold the Tops to a field goal to bring up overtime.
Having won the coin toss, the Blue Raiders elected to play defense, but immediately allowed running back Anthony Wales to rush for the score.
Middle struck on a big play of their own the next possession with a 21-yard Richie James reception. The catch set-up a three-yard touchdown run by I’Tavius Mathers.
MT received the ball to open the second overtime, and Stockstill found Andrews in the back of the end zone to give the Blue Raiders the lead. However, Rooker’s PAT that would have at least ensured a third overtime was blocked.
“Honestly, I did what I do every time. I thought I made good contact with the ball, but the guy just made a great play and got his hands on it,” said Rooker.
WKU went on to score the game-tying touchdown, and the game-winning PAT attempt was good. For the second year in a row, the Hilltoppers claimed victory in 100 Miles of Hate.
After breaking his own school record with 16 receptions for a personal best of 223 yards, James had little to say after the game.
“Heartbroken. That’s all I’ve got to say,” James stated.
James was not alone. I’Tavius Mathers seemed to be choking on his own emotions as he spoke.
“It hurts a lot. I didn’t really want to lose homecoming. We let this one get away from us,” Mathers admitted.
But no one took the loss as hard as Brent Stockstill.
“I lost us the game. I made a bad decision as we tried to run out the clock. We tried a little bubble screen trying to run out the clock. I made a bad throw, and it cost us the game,” he said.
Things won’t get any easier for the Blue Raiders, as they go on the road to face Missouri Saturday, Oct. 22.