After a week of luaus, hula dancing and relaxing on the beach, the Blue Raiders finally got a chance to play the game for which they made the trip to Hawaii.
The defense forced a 3-and-out on the first possession of the Hawaii Bowl, and the MT offense was able to capitalize. It took only four plays for the Blue Raiders to hit paydirt, as I’Tavius Mathers capped off the 74-yard drive with a 20-yard run.
After another 3-and-out from Hawaii, the Blue Raiders scored in a hurry once again. After a pass interference call placed them at their own 49, Brent Stockstill hooked up with Richie James on a 51-yard touchdown pass.
However, the game turned on a dime on the Blue Raiders’ next possession. Hawaii linebacker Ikem Okeke blitzed Stockstill’s blindside and stripped the ball. Hawaii got its first touchdown of the game on the first play of the ensuing possession, which would also be the first of four unanswered touchdowns for the Rainbow Warriors.
The Blue Raiders finally got back on the board late in the second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown reception by Ty Lee, but Hawaii came back scored quickly on the following possession to maintain a 35–21 lead going into the half.
MT received the opening kick of the half, but the Rainbow Warriors defense forced another 3-and-out. Hawaii’s offense followed up with a field goal.
Middle responded with 75-yard scoring drive, capped off by a Dennis Andrews touchdown reception, to pull within 10. However, that was the closest they would get to catching up with Hawaii in the second half.
The Rainbow Warriors came away with the 52–35 victory in front of their home crowd.
Playing in his first game since Nov. 5, it was apparent that Stockstill was a bit rusty. He did throw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions, one of which went back for a touchdown. Stockstill also appeared somewhat indecisive at times, which is rather uncharacteristic of the star quarterback.
The biggest story, however, was the defense.
The MT defense allowed 500 yards of total offense, and, as it had all season, struggled to stop the run especially. The Rainbow Warriors rushed for 205 yards, with 170 of those coming from starting running back Diocemy Saint Juste alone.
Four days later, MTSU parted ties with defensive coordinator Ty Nix.
Nix joined the Blue Raiders as co-defensive coordinator in 2012, aiding the defense in showing drastic improvement in several statistical rankings from the previous year. The unit continued to show improvement in 2013.
Nix took sole leadership of the defense in 2015 and the unit again showed improvement, but in 2016 they showed regression in nearly every major category while looking completely lost at times.
On the same day MT also cut ties with receivers coach Kez McCorvey. McCorvey was hired after Kodi Burns departed for other coaching opportunities.
McCorvey led a unit that had been decimated by injuries before the season began, and the unit played well in spite of that fact.
While it is not entirely clear why McCorvey was let go, it has been speculated that his coaching philosophy did not mesh well with the rest of the staff.