BLACKSBURG, Va. – Middle Tennessee held serve early against No. 19 Virginia Tech, but a strong second half from the Hokie offense proved to be the difference, as the Blue Raiders fell 35-14 at Lane Stadium on Saturday.
Middle Tennessee held to just seven yards of offense in the first quarter, and trailed 14-0 early in the second quarter when CJ Windham got the Blue Raiders on the board with a toe-tapping 5-yard touchdown catch with 5:17 left in the first half. Bailey Hockman tossed four passes for completions of ten yards or more on the drive, highlighted by a 27-yard strike to Jarrin Pierce.
The 14-7 scoreline would hold going into halftime, but an explosive first offensive drive put Virginia Tech up 21-7, the first of 21 unanswered points for the Blue Raiders’ ACC opponent, allowing the Hokies to pull away and put the game on ice in the fourth quarter.
MT finally broke through for a second half score with 30 seconds left in the game, as Chase Cunningham found Marquel Tinsley on a six yard out route near the front right pylon for a touchdown to push the Blue Raiders into double digits.
Virginia Tech outgained Middle Tennessee’s yardage 375-349 overall, but the Blue Raiders held a 283-159 yard advantage in the air. Bailey Hockman completed 19 of 31 passes for 207 yards, tossing a touchdown and an interception on the day. Jimmy Marshall came up big in the receiving game, tying his career-high in catches with eight for 111 yards. Chase Cunningham looked good in relief of Hockman late, going 7-for-8 for 76 yards and touchdown..
On defense, DQ Thomas tallied 11 tackles on the afternoon to lead the Blue Raiders, including a 13-yard sack in the first quarter. Reed Blankenship and Teldrick Ross followed close behind with eight and seven tackles, respectively, with both tallying a tackle for loss. Jordan Ferguson forced two QB hurries, while Decorian Patterson earned the defense’s sole pass break up.
HE’S A WEAPON: Punter Kyle Ulbrich continued to be a weapon against Virginia Tech. Ulbrich, a Ray Guy Award Watch List candidate, unloaded 50-yard plus punts on his first three efforts against the Hokies. His first three punts went for 52, 55 and 56 yards. His fourth attempt was one of his best punts. It went for just 39 yards but it pinned the Hokies inside their 5 with less than a minute remaining in the first half. He had two punts downed inside the Hokies 10. For the game, Ulbrich averaged 45.8 yards on six punts, with three of the six going inside the Virginia Tech 20.
STREAK ALIVE: Jarrin Pierce hauled in a first-quarter reception giving him at least one reception in all 23 games of his Blue Raider career. He is ranked 17th nationally and ninth all-time at Middle Tennessee for receptions in consecutive games. He finished the game with three receptions for 40 yards.
HIGH SCHOOL CONNECTION: QB Bailey Hockman and WR CJ Windham were a potent tandem at McEachern HS in Powder Springs, Ga. the two years they played together (2014, 2015) with Windham hauling in 22 Hockman aerials for 287 yards and three TDs. Their chemistry has been evident during their Blue Raider reunion in 2021. Hockman connected with Windham for MT’s only first-half TD against Virginia Tech. The duo connected on three passes Saturday, and Windham led the Blue Raiders with five receptions in the opener against Monmouth.
CAREER DAY FOR MARSHALL: WR Jimmy Marshall established a new career high with eight receptions against Virginia Tech. Marshall’s previous high was seven against Rice in 2019. His eight catches went for 111 yards, just one shy of his career high of 112 yards against Rice in 2019.
QUICK HITTERS: DQ Thomas made his team-leading 35th straight start … DQ Thomas played in his team-leading 50th career game today …WR Marquel Tinsley hauled in his first career TD with a 6-yard reception in the fourth quarter… WR Eric Metcalf’s 26-yard catch in the third quarter was the longest of his short career.