For the first time since joining Conference USA, the MTSU Blue Raiders entered into their second league game without a conference win, making the Oct. 7 matchup against Florida International a must-win if the team hoped to accomplish its goal of winning the C-USA title.
The game started out as a defensive struggle with the first quarter ending with a 3–3 score, but the Blue Raiders began to dominate the game soon after. John Urzua hit Brad Anderson for a 19-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter, then the defense quickly snuffed out the Panthers’ ensuing possession. The possession was highlighted by Khalil Brooks getting two of his five tackles for loss, including a pivotal third-down sack. The five tackles for loss tied a Blue Raider single-game record, and Brooks’ three sacks on the day earned him C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
On its next possession, the Blue Raider offense found itself in the red zone. That is when linebacker Tavares Thomas came out and lined up as a quarterback in the wildcat formation. Thomas rushed three consecutive times on his way to the end zone.
It was the first time in three years Thomas had played in the offensive backfield, but he seemed to not miss a beat as he ended the day with three rushing touchdowns. Incredibly, he practiced only 15 snaps throughout the week.
Freshman running back Brad Anderson had another strong performance as he tallied his second career 100-yard performance. Not only did Anderson rush 11 times for 112 yards, but he also caught six passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Middle Tennessee closed out the victory with a score of 37–17.
After allowing Florida Atlantic to rush for better than 250 yards the week prior, the Blue Raider defense recovered by holding FIU to just 85 net rushing yards. However, cornerback Mike Minter was not satisfied.
“Right now we’re just average. Our record is 3–3, that’s not good enough, that’s just average. I’m tired of being average,” Minter confessed. “If we want to be great and be successful, we can’t be average. We can’t go win, loss, win, loss, win, loss. That’s not good enough.”
Minter and the rest of the Blue Raiders will look to turn average into excellence this week as they visit a old foe on Oct. 14.
After a two-year hiatus, University of Alabama at Birmingham has resumed its football program, and the team is off to a solid 3–2 start and fresh off a upset victory over Louisiana Tech.
The Blazers currently rank fourth in the C-USA in rushing offense at 203 yards per game, and rank second in pass defense allowing only 185 passing yards per contest.
The Blue Raiders defense will be tasked with forcing the C-USA leader in third down efficiency to punt.
“I feel like the main thing for third down will be doing well on first down,” said safety Jovante Moffatt. “(We have to) put them in long situations and help Coach Shaffer make calls for third and long situations to help us.”
The Blazers offense is led by a familiar face to some Blue Raiders.
Quarterback A.J. Erdely was recruited out of high school as part of the Blue Raiders’ 2013 recruiting class. After taking a redshirt year, Erdely played only 12 snaps in 2014 and opted to transfer to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for more playing time. He now leads the Blazers offense as a dual-threat quarterback, and is second on the team in rushing yards.
The Blue Raiders will look to establish its first winning streak of the 2017 football season this Saturday, Oct. 14. This one will kickoff in Birmingham at 5:30 p.m. central and can be seen on the beIN Sports network.