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Middle Tennessee Are Bowl Eligible Once Again After Easy Defeat of WKU

The Blue Raiders hit six wins while the Tops’ struggles look to be worsening.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers faced off in the annual “100 Miles of Hate” rivalry game on Friday night in Murfreesboro. MTSU took care of business at home winning the game by a score of 29-10. The victory moves MTSU to 6-3 overall, which means MTSU is bowl eligible for the sixth straight year. This was also MTSU’s first win in the rivalry since 2014.

WKU never led in this game. MTSU started the game off with a 43-yard touchdown pass by Brent Stockstill to Ty Lee on the first possession of the game and never looked back. Stockstill finished the night 24 of 42 with 228 passing yards and two touchdowns.

The real offensive force for MTSU in this game though was freshman running back Chaton Mobley. Mobley carried the ball 25 times for 198 yards on the day, including a 60-yard rush. Those 198 rush yards were the most by a freshman in a single game in MTSU history. The Tops’ leading rusher was Gino Appleberry Jr. with 29 yards. WKU has still not had a player rush for over 100 yards in a game since Mike Sanford took over.

Kicking was an important aspect of this game that made quite a bit of difference. MTSU’s Crews Holts was a perfect five out of five on the day while WKU’s Alex Rinella hit his only attempt (a 40 yarder) but Ryan Nuss also attempted one for the Tops which was blocked late in the game. Oddly enough, the reason Rinella had been getting the bulk of the placekicking duties for WKU lately for fear of Nuss kicking too low and having his attempts blocked. It seems those fears were justified.

On a negative note for MTSU on Friday, there was a scary injury to cornerback Cordell Hudson, who was motionless on the field for several minutes before getting carried off the field in a stretcher. Apparently though, after being looked at at a hospital in Nashville, he now has movement in all his limbs and is expected to make a full recovery.

During the game, much of the conversation amongst Western Kentucky fans was why Drew Eckels got the start at quarterback over Steven Duncan. Eckels went 12 of 32 for 195 yards before exiting the game with what looked like an aggravation of the shoulder injury that kept him out for the previous seven weeks. Duncan then came in and threw a long touchdown to Lucky Jackson in one of his three completions on 14 attempts Friday night. With Eckels’ health getting worse, Duncan may end up being who the Tops go with as the starting quarterback in their final three games.

WKU are now 1-8 and will close out the year with a trip to FAU next week, followed by UTEP at home and a stop in Ruston to play Louisiana Tech. MTSU will try to keep the win counter moving next week with a trip to El Paso to face a still winless UTEP team.

For the moment, it would seem that the tide has turned in this rivalry. Who knows how long it will stay this way though? With Brent Stockstill graduating, how different will the Blue Raiders look next year? There could be more changes on the horizon for the Tops as well...only time will tell at this point.