Middle Tennessee defeated WKU on Saturday in a 3OT thriller 50-47. MTSU jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, but the WKU defense stiffened and the offense exploded, scoring 21 unanswered to gain a 24-14 lead in the second quarter. An MTSU drive and a Brandon Doughty interception later, the score was knotted up at 24-24 going into the half. The Hilltopper offense accounted for nearly 400 yards in the first half, but once again their defense struggled to stop their opponent. Middle Tennessee had two touchdowns that were of 50 yards or more in the first quarter, one being an Austin Grammer quarterback scramble.
In the third quarter, the Western Kentucky offense had a chance to take the lead and was stopped at the goal line on fourth down. Fortunately for WKU, Middle Tennessee was unable to do anything with the football on that next drive, leveling momentum.
WKU kicker Garrett Schwettman missed a 37 yard field goal with 14:13 left in the fourth quarter. MTSU gashed the WKU run defense on the following drive, running the same run play seven consecutive times to a Shane Tucker two-yard touchdown run with 11:37 left in the fourth quarter. Brandon Doughty and the Hilltoppers were able to answer with a 19-yard Mitchell Henry touchdown reception with 9:25 left in the game to tie it at 31.
The Hilltopper defense held MTSU to a 4th-and-inches with 6:54 left, but Blue Raider quarterback Austin Grammer was able to get the first down on a quarterback keeper to keep the drive going. Western Kentucky defensive back Rico Brown was flagged for pass interference a few plays later, moving MTSU down to the Hilltopper 43-yard line with 5:11 to go. WKU was finally able to put a halt to the Blue Raider drive, giving up a field goal with 2:29 left to give MTSU a 34-31 lead.
Western Kentucky beautifully executed the "Two-Minute Drill", marching down the field to get a 24-yard field goal to send the game to overtime with a score of 34-34.
Western Kentucky scored on the first play of overtime, a 25 yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Henry. The controversial play ended in Henry losing the football, but after review the referees determined the ball was across the plane, and that the play was indeed a touchdown (giving WKU a 41-34 lead).
WKU was able to hold MTSU to a 4th-and-four, but once again MTSU was able to convert and took the ball to the WKU 1 yard line to set up an easy touchdown run from Austin Grammer, tying the game at 41 to send it into a second overtime.
In the second overtime, both teams held each other to field goals, making the score 44-44 going into the third overtime. The third overtime started with more of the same: WKU settling for a field goal (Score now 47-44). MTSU QB Austin Grammer threw a 25 yard TD to win the game for the Blue Raiders, 50-47.
The WKU defense struggled to contain Blue Raider quarterback Austin Grammer throughout the game. He finished with 125 rushing yards, and 3 rushing touchdowns. Middle Tennessee as a team ran for over 300 yards --the first time WKU has allowed a team to do so since their loss to Navy in 2011. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt stressed the importance of stopping the run --specifically containing the quarterback-- earlier in the week, and it obviously didn't translate very well. The Hilltoppers must improve defensively, because they can't rely on their offense to consistently execute well, as we saw in their Week 2 loss to Illinois.
-QB Brandon Doughty: 593 YDS, 4TDS, INT
-RB Leon Allen: 30CAR, 128YDS, TD
-WR Nicolas Norris: 6REC, 174YD, TD
-Total Offense: 718
-QB Austin Grammer: 218 YDS, 1TD
-Total Offense: 541