By Ryan Nelson (@TheRyanNelson_)
Just a day removed from Thanksgiving -- the holiday where gluttony isn’t considered rude or uncivilized, but expected -- it was only fitting for our Conference USA finale to give college football fans more than their fair share of feasting.
Many wondered if Middle Tennessee State could rediscover their offensive prowess with backup QB John Urzua at the helm. Watching the opening Blue Raider drive alone, there was no evidence of a change in fortune for the MTSU offense.
Florida Atlantic’s defense forced a quick three and out. The Owls’ offense then wasted no time in finding the end zone. FAU QB Jason Driskel found WR Nate Terry from 13 yards out to put the Owls up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
The ensuing offensive explosion was more befitting of the Blue Raiders prior to the injury of starting MTSU QB Brent Stockstill.
MTSU WR Richie James beat a defender downfield to take a beautiful Urzua dime to the house for a 49-yard score to tie things up.
James, the Sarasota, FL, native, was only showing a flash of what was to come. On the following MTSU possession, James lined up in the wildcat formation and found a crease in the defense for 16-yard TD scamper.
With just over a minute left to go, MTSU RB I’Tavius Mathers cutback for a 44-yard score to give the Blue Raiders a 21-7 lead.
Urzua was on the sideline with an injury, which allowed James to relive his days as a quarterback in high school. James, once again, lined up in the backfield, and took the snap to the house. This time, slicing a visibly gassed Owls defense for an 11-yard TD run to give MTSU a 28-7 lead on Senior Day.
Despite being figuratively punched in the mouth early on, the Owls refused to quit. Devin “Motor” Singletary crossed the goal line on a tough run from nine yards out to cut the lead to 28-14.
On the ensuing possession, MTSU plugged yet another skill position player into the quarterback position. This time, MTSU WR Dennis Andrews scored from nine yards out to cap a seven play, 73-yard TD drive.
Another MTSU score, and yet another FAU answer. FAU RB Greg “Buddy” Howell found the end zone with a two-yard run up the gut to trim the lead to 35-21.
Florida Atlantic couldn’t prevent the MTSU offensive machine from churning out another score before halftime. Mathers found pay dirt while tip-toeing the sidelines to give the Blue Raiders a three score cushion going into the locker room.
Andrews opened the scoring for the Blue Raiders with a five yard run -- again from the wildcat formation ---to push the MTSU lead to 49-21.
Here’s where things get exciting, try and keep up.
The Owls were determined to show the world the second half wouldn’t simply be a continuation of the first. Singletary made several defenders look silly before trotting into the end zone to close the gap to 49-28.
Then, Driskel would tuck it and run himself for a four-yard score. Blue Raiders led 49-35.
The scoring hit a lull until early in the fourth, when Driskel would find Henry Bussey while rolling out to pull the Owls within two scores.
MTSU’s offensive giant seem to reawaken. Mathers found the end zone from eight yards out, then Richie James scored from three yards out, to extend the Blue Raiders lead to 63-42.
The Owls refused to roll over in this one. Singletary would score yet again for his third touchdown of the game. 63-49 Blue Raiders.
The FAU resurgence was quickly subdued by an Andrews touchdown, and an interception return for a touchdown by MTSU DB DJ Sanders. 77- 49, Blue Raiders.
In the waning moments of the game, the Owls would pad the stats, to score the game’s 19th touchdown on a RB Jay Warren TD from one yard out. At last, the scoring ended in a 77-56 victory for the Blue Raiders.
For the ninth straight season, the Blue Raiders subdue the Owls.
The Blue Raiders and Owls combined for over 1,300 yards of offense, with MTSU racking up 757 yards, and FAU amassing 589. MTSU’s ground game gashed the FAU defense for 495 yards rushing.
For the third consecutive season under head coach Charlie Partridge, the Owls finish with a 3-9 record.