Arkansas State came in to the 4th annual Camellia Bowl looking to bounce back from a disappointing regular season finish against Troy. Middle Tennessee State was looking for their first bowl win since the 2009 New Orleans Bowl. ASU found themselves repeating much of what doomed them most of the year.
ASU got an early break as safety BJ Edmonds made a remarkable one handed interception and then the offense immediately drove into the red zone but could only come away with a field goal. On MTSU’s second possession, the ASU defense forced the Blue Raiders into a punt but following a roughing the kicker penalty, MTSU’s Terelle West popped a 45 yard TD run to put them back up on ASU 7-3. MTSU would commit two turnovers in the first quarter but would use another ASU gaffe to take early control of the game.
Early in the second quarter ASU QB Justice Hansen was chased and eventually stripped of the ball as MTSU’s D.J. Sanders scooped the ball up for a 54 yard fumble return for a TD and extended the Blue Raider lead to 14-3. Justice Hansen scored on a QB keeper after a 13-play 85 yard drive that pulled ASU back within four before half 14-10. On the next Blue Raider possession a facemask penalty on Ronheem Bingham would not only give MTSU a much needed first down but would also negate a sack by Ja’Von Rolland Jones and his chance to break the NCAA career sacks record. Two plays later MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill would hit Ruben Garnett on 31 yard touchdown pass to close the half with a 21-10 lead.
MTSU would open the second half scoring with a 12-play 73 yard drive capped off by a 2 yard run by Tavares Thomas to open up the lead to 28-10 and the Blue Raiders seemed to be pulling away but the Red Wolves would not go away.
Two TD passes by ASU’s Hansen pulled ASU back within 28-23 but they would never end up regaining the lead as Stockstill would hit Shane Tucker on a 30 yard scoring pass. The Blue Raiders’ defense would loosen up and allow a 41 yard pass from Hansen to Christian Booker for the final score of the night as MTSU would hold on for a 35-30 victory.
Blue Raider QB Brent Stockstill finished the night 19-35 for 232 yards and 2 TD’s along with 3 intereceptions. ASU’s Justice Hansen was 31-57 for 337 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 interception. Each team had three turnovers on the night and was about even in time of possession as the game came down to timely penalties and big defensive plays, mostly for ASU the former and for MTSU the latter.
The Red Wolves finish the season 7-5 having lost three out of their last five games while the Blue Raiders get above .500 at 7-6 and should ride some momentum into the early signing period.