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MTSU overcomes 20-point deficit against La Tech and wins a thriller 38-34

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Down 27-7, MTSU didn’t give up

Middle Tennessee v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

La Tech owned the 1st half.

After forcing a punt by MTSU on the opening possession, La Tech scored on a fluke play. The snap went over QB Ryan Higgins’ head and he had to chase it down, but he scooped it up, scrambled, and threw a pass to a wide open Carlos Henderson who ran it 70 yards for the touchdown.

The halftime score was 20-7. Early 3rd quarter, Tech made it 27-7. But then MTSU got it going. 28 unanswered points later and MTSU took the 31-27 lead. Tech finally bounced back but MTSU had too much momentum. A 4th & goal stop with under a minute to go sealed the 38-34 Blue Raider victory.

Both quarterbacks showed up today. Ryan Higgins threw for over 500 yards and 3 TDs. Brent Stockstill threw 356 with 2 TDs. The most impressive part: 105 combined pass attempts by these quarterbacks; NO interceptions.

But I’Tavius Mathers would not be stopped. 3 TDs by the MTSU running back who had 163 rushing yards. The other star was Tech’s Trent Taylor, who recorded over 200 receiving yards and 2 TDs.

Whatever Rick Stockstill told his team at halftime, they listened. The defense stepped up to force several consecutive punts by the Bulldogs and the offense scored several times in a row.

The Dawgs also had opportunities that they couldn’t capitalize on. A fumble inside the MTSU 5 early on prevented an almost surefire score. Twice the Dawgs were held to field goals.

Injuries didn’t help La Tech, either. Carlos Henderson was seen limping off the field and didn’t appear to return. On the final drive, Trent Taylor started limping, as well. Although he stayed in the game, he was effectively out of commission for the final push. With 3 pass plays called inside the 10, had Taylor been healthy, a different result would have been very likely.

That also brings up the question of the play calling. 1st & goal, incomplete pass. 2nd down, QB draw gains 3. From the 6 yard-line, with your two best receivers hurt, would you not run the ball? Instead, 2 pass plays (both to the same spot) followed, and both failed. Very similar situation to Tech’s loss last year to Kansas State.

For MTSU, this win is a huge confidence builder. They know they can hang with the best teams in C-USA, and they know that even with a large deficit, they aren’t out of it.

For Louisiana Tech, there’s reason for optimism, but also reason for frustration. They put up over 600 yards of total offense. But they gave up 553. Against Texas Tech, that’s expected. But this was in-conference. The Tech defense looked so good against Arkansas, but it’s looking more and more as if that was just a slow start to the season for the Razorbacks.

This is not the first time the Bulldogs under Skip Holtz have given up a huge lead. This is not the first time they’ve lost a close game. These are repent offenses, not just from this year, but from the beginning.

Middle Tennessee will take this confidence on the road next week and probably crush North Texas.

Louisiana Tech will get a home game against UTEP to regroup. With their first home game delayed 4 hours, this will be their first game with the true Joe Aillet Stadium environment. They’ll need it.

The sad thing is, many Tech fans will blame Higgins. Higgins had a few bad decisions, but overall he has played very well. He doesn’t deserve the blame for tonight.

Fun facts

  • Every Tennessee FBS team won today, two of them on huge comebacks.
  • This is the second year in a row that La Tech has opened conference play on the road against the C-USA East favorite and lost, despite winning the year before in a blow out.