The Blue Raiders traveled to Charlotte to take on the 49ers on Nov. 19, and they got off to a hot start.
Middle went 75 yards in nine plays on the game’s first possession, a drive that was capped off by a touchdown pass from John Urzua to Ty Lee.
The defense then forced a three-and-out to set up another big drive of 76 yards, finished off by another Urzua touchdown pass to Richie James.
The two long drives helped the Blue Raiders to a 14–6 lead going into the second quarter. Urzua showed marked improvement in the quarter, finishing 10-for-13 with 97 yards and two touchdowns. However, it was easily the best quarter of the day for the young quarterback.
In what was largely an uneventful second quarter, Urzua did add another touchdown pass to his stat line, this one to Patrick Smith. Middle went into the half with a comfortable 24–6 lead.
Although the halftime scored suggested a blowout was imminent, the 49ers had different plans.
Charlotte opened the half with an 11-play scoring drive that lasted nearly four minutes to close the Blue Raider advantage to 11 points. The Blue Raiders answered back on the ensuing possession, but the 49ers went on to three unanswered scores to tie the game.
However, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Ty Lee lined up in the backfield and broke out for a 61-yard touchdown run to give MT the lead.
The 49ers had one more shot to push the game into overtime, but Steven Rhodes came up with his second sack on 3rd and 10 to force a 4th and 20 situation for Charlotte. The 49ers were unable to convert, and MTSU claimed victory.
I’Tavius Mathers was back in form. Though he only saw six touches in the second half due to being a little nicked up, he did gain 144 yards with 101 yards coming on the ground.
An interesting wrinkle was added to the backfield as well. Richie James, Dennis Andrews and Ty Lee were utilized there in a variety of ways, including in the wildcat formation. Lee logged 68 yards out of the backfield while James registered 61.
Urzua also looked better than he has in his previous appearances, albeit he tapered off as the game went along. He did finish with 250 yards and four touchdowns, however.
“I thought John played better. I hope he plays better this week than he did last week, but I thought he did some good things,” said coach Rick Stockstill.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Charlotte game is the fact that the Blue Raiders held Conference USA’s top rushing offense to 3.6 yards per carry and did not allow a 100-yard rusher.
They will need to feed off that this week as they face a Florida Atlantic team which features two very productive running backs. Bud Howell and Devin Singletary together have rushed for 1,563 at 5.6 yards per carry.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for the Blue Raiders will be slowing the Owls’ defensive end Trey Hendrickson.
Hendrickson has built an impressive resume for himself over the last two seasons, having registered 29.5 tackles for loss and 23 sacks.
“He plays with great effort. He’s got a great motor. Our offensive line has to play with the same intensity and toughness they played with last week. He’s a good player I think our offensive line will enjoy competing against,” Stockstill said.
The Blue Raiders will look to improve their bowl resume as they strive for their eighth win of the season. Kickoff will be at 4:30, Nov. 26, at Floyd Stadium. Come and support your Blue Raiders as they celebrate the departure of 22 seniors. Make sure you take advantage of the big Black Friday sale. Tickets will be on special all day on Nov. 25. Click here on that date to purchase your tickets.