MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The buses aren’t quite gassed up just yet this Labor Day weekend, but after a successful 50-15 win to open the season against Monmouth, Middle Tennessee football is ready to hit the road to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech, the first contest of their three-game road trip to close out September.
Power conference opponents are always circled on the calendar for every Group of Five team in the country, but a trip to Lane Stadium, where crowd noise levels regularly register on the university’s seismograph, will provide a unique challenge for the Blue Raiders.
“We’ve got a long bus ride, so we’ve got to be able to handle that, and then be ready for a loud stadium,” head coach Rick Stockstill said. “They were extremely loud last week against North Carolina, and we expect the same things this week. It’s going to be a whiteout game, so it’s going to add to the excitement of the game for them.”
The Hokies are coming off a top-10 win over preseason ACC Coastal favorites North Carolina last Friday, turning the Tar Heels over three times through the air in the 17-10 victory. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister completed 12-of-19 for 169 yards and a touchdown, while also tacking on 42 yards on the ground and a score.
“We realize if he doesn’t have his first or second checkdown, he’s going to take off,” Reed Blankenship said. “You’ve just got to do your job and keep him contained, and I think our front seven can do that.”
Stockstill has won five games against Power 5 opponents in his time in Murfreesboro, with the most recent win being a 30-23 victory on the road against Syracuse in 2017. The Blue Raiders are 4-11 all-time against ACC opponents, mostly recently falling at home to Duke in 2019.
Finding Consistency in Running Game
While the Blue Raiders’ offense was able to capitalize on their defense’s four takeaways to tune of 21 points (plus a pick-6) on Saturday, a more balanced attack will be needed to counter the Hokies’ strong defense.
The passing game was strong for MT, with 243 yards in the air, three touchdowns, and just two sacks given up between the play of Bailey Hockman and Chase Cunningham. But while the run game showed explosive ability, with three different Blue Raider running backs having at least one carry for more than ten yards, the overall yards per carry of 2.6 leaves plenty of room for improvement in practice this week.
“Each back that played had some really good individual runs, but we just weren’t consistent enough,” Stockstill said. “We weren’t consistent at the offensive line or at the running back position to establish a more effective running game.”
Senior tailback Amir Rasul said that from a running back’s perspective, doing a better job with his own personal rhythm and vision will be key to get that corrected going into next week.
“Just knowing where to go and when to get there, that’s one of the things that I know I can work on,” Rasul said. “Just slowing down a little bit, seeing the reads, being slow to, fast through, and everything will take care of itself.”
Started the season on a high note. Relive our 50-15 win against Monmouth here.#BlueRaiders | #EATT pic.twitter.com/ZNLFEU9dJU
— Middle Tennessee FB (@MT_FB) September 6, 2021
Hockman Breakdowns the Philly Special
Bailey Hockman got a chance to show off his athleticism in his Blue Raider debut, catching a pass on a two-point conversion following Teldrick Ross’ interception return for a touchdown.
The play, a common goal line play in modern football following the success of Nick Foles’ Philadelphia Eagles using it in Super Bowl LII, features a double reverse, usually via a receiver set in motion prior to the snap, where the quarterback peels off after the handoff to slip behind the distracted defense for the easy score.
“I was just kind of out there,” Hockman said after the game on Saturday. “I was like ‘well, I’ve got to go this way.’ And I was supposed to kind of miss the end, but he was squeezing, and I kind of ran into him, and I was like ‘uh oh.'”
The delay from the momentary run in left Hockman around more defenders than ideal. But the redshirt junior knew he had to get in the end zone.
“I just rolled out and I kind of got open,” Hockman said. “And then I just saw the kid coming, and I gotta find a way. Luckily I did.”
A memorable night for the lefty, @BaileyHockman in his first game as a Blue Raider. #BlueRaiders | #EATT pic.twitter.com/ObCKMVapUo
— Middle Tennessee FB (@MT_FB) September 5, 2021
Rick Stockstill LIVE Moved to Tuesday
A programming note from the Blue Raider Radio Network: due to the Labor Day Holiday, this week’s edition of Rick Stockstill LIVE will be on Tuesday night (Sept. 7) at 7 p.m., rather than its usual weekly time slot of Monday night at 6 p.m.
The show will be broadcast from The Boulevard Bar and Grill near campus, and can be heard on WGNS (1450 AM/100.5 FM/101.9 FM) and 102.5 FM The Game, while fans can watch the show on GoBlueRaiders.com and the main Blue Raider Athletics Facebook page.
Rick Stockstill LIVE will return to its normal time slot for the remainder of the year next week.
Peyton DePreist Sets C-USA Scoring Record
After a record miscommunication with the C-USA office reset the benchmark she had to meet earlier this season, the Blue Raiders’ star striker Peyton DePriest finally broke through to claim ownership of the career goals title on Sunday in Murfreesboro, netting her fourth goal of the season for the 50th goal of her career.
THE RECORD-BREAKER!! What a career for senior Peyton DePriest! That’s OUR #12! 👏#BlueRaiders | #MT pic.twitter.com/XV4KQNCVga
— MT Soccer (@MT_Soccer) September 5, 2021
The 67th minute goal capped off a strong weekend for the Blue Raiders, who captured a pair of non-conference wins over Detroit Mercy and Houston Baptist to improve to 3-2-1 on the season. They conclude their homestand on Friday night against East Tennessee State. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
There’s never been one like our #️⃣1️⃣2️⃣
5️⃣0️⃣ goals and counting
The legacy 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚𝙨!#BlueRaiders | #MT pic.twitter.com/l7XcSk6scU
— MT Soccer (@MT_Soccer) September 6, 2021
Cross Country Takes Second and Fourth in Memphis
The Middle Tennessee Track, Field and Cross Country program got its season off to a strong start on Saturday in the Memphis Twilight Classic.
The women’s team finished second overall in their 5K division, finishing behind only Ole Miss and ahead of C-USA foes Western Kentucky and UAB. The team’s top five runners all placed within the top 25. Senior Eusila Chepkemei led the Blue Raiders with a third place 17:41.24, just fifteen seconds off of first place.
In the men’s 4-mile race, the Blue Raiders finished a solid fourth, the top rated C-USA team at the event. Sophomore Hillary Kimaiyo and senior Lebo Mosito were the team’s top two finishers, both setting PRs at that distance, finishing second and fifth respectively.