Missing star linebacker T.T. Barber, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders defense was unable to hang with the star-studded Western Michigan Broncos in the Bahamas Bowl, falling 45-31.
The Blue Raiders gave up 613 yards of total offense, including seven plays of 20+ yards, in the 14-point loss. WMU running back Jamauri Bogan carried the ball 19 times for 215 yards and four touchdowns, including three runs of 40+ yards.
The bowl game, MTSU’s first since 2013, started out well for the Blue Raiders with a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Facing a third and one, redshirt freshman wide receiver Richie James took a rare carry and sprinted down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown. The Cody Clark PAT gave MTSU a 7-0 lead 1:17 into the game.
The Broncos, sporting one of the best offenses in the nation, took no time in responding. They went 71 yards in only three plays, capped by a Bogan 62-yard rushing touchdown. With the PAT by Andrew Halderman, the score was tied at seven with not even three minutes played.
In 1:39 seconds of game time, Brent Stockstill and the Blue Raiders offense were celebrating once again. This time MTSU went 75 yards in five plays. James scored his second touchdown of the day, first in the air, on a 44-yard catch to give the Blue Raiders the lead once again at 14-7.
Western Michigan again drove in MTSU territory, all the way to the one-yard line, before Jarvion Franklin was tagged for a personal foul penalty. The subsequent field goal attempt from 30 yards was no good. The Broncos finally stopped MTSU’s offense and drilled a 47-yard kick to pull within 14-10 with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
MTSU added a field goal of their own, a 23-yard kick, that pulled the Blue Raiders in front by seven points once more.
With 1:04 left in the first quarter, WMU quarterback Zach Terrell led the Broncos on a two-play, 85-yard touchdown drive. Terrell found star wide receiver Corey Davis on an 80-yard pitch and catch that ended the first quarter with the game tied at 17.
Following a first quarter that saw the two teams combine for over 440 yards, the game came to a standstill in the second quarter. Neither team could get on track with the longest drive of the quarter being a 54 yard drive that ended in a punt by WMU.
MTSU did get one last chance to score before the half was over, but running back Jordan Parker fumbled the ball inside Broncos territory.
At the half, the game was tied 17-17.
Suddenly realizing that running the ball worked well in the first quarter, Western Michigan turned to the ground attack in the opening drive of the second half. All was well until they were stopped at the MTSU 46-yard line, facing a fourth and one. Looking to convert the fourth down, Bogan found some room and raced 46 yards to give the Broncos a 24-17 lead early in the third quarter.
After a series of punts that saw MTSU flip the field on Western Michigan, the Blue Raiders started a drive at the WMU 32. Two plays later, Stockstill found Christian Collis for a 17-yard pass that ended in the end zone. With that score, we were headed to the fourth quarter tied at 24.
Immediately, Western Michigan found success on the big play with Daniel Braverman getting in on the action with a 68-yard catch and run into the end zone. That score put WMU in the lead at 31-24.
In what looked to be turning into a game of haymakers, MTSU hit again with James finding the end zone on a 29-yard touchdown catch. That was his third score of the game, tying WMU at 31 with 9:41 left in the fourth quarter.
Again, the Blue Raiders inability to limit damage on a big play came up to bite them with Bogan ripping off a 61-yard run to the 19-yard line. Four plays later, WMU was once again in the lead at 38-31 with 6:12 left in the game.
Needing a response, Stockstill made his biggest mistake of the game, tossing an errant pass to WMU defensive back Rontavius Atkins. The defender ran the interception back to the MTSU four-yard line. Two plays later, Bogan found the end zone for the fourth time on a one-yard run.
MTSU turned the ball over on downs, allowing Western Michigan to run out the clock and pull out a 45-31 win over the Blue Raiders.
MTSU ends their season at 7-6, while Western Michigan ends their season at 8-5.