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Middle Tennessee 24, Florida Atlantic 17: Game Recap

Led by 198 receiving yards from Richie James, MTSU pulled one game closer to bowl eligibility with a hard fought win over Florida Atlantic.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Overcoming wet conditions and a very good effort from the home side, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders held on for a tough 24-17 win over the Florida Atlantic Owls Saturday afternoon.

This win put the Blue Raiders within reach of bowl eligibility at 5-5 while the Owls fell to 2-8 on the season with the loss.

After being forced to punt on their first drive of the game, the FAU defense came up big early. Blue Raiders running back Desmond Anderson was stripped of the ball on a nine-yard run by Ocie Rose with Rose also recovering the fumble at the MTSU 36-yard line.

Three plays later, FAU was the first team to score with Jaquez Johnson finding Nate Terry on a 20-yard touchdown pass. The PAT by Greg Joseph gave the Owls an early 7-0 lead.

Led by quarterback Brent Stockstill, the Blue Raiders responded with a touchdown drive of their own. This seven-play, 90-yard drive was driven by the big play with Stockstill finding Richie James for a 69-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 7-7.

MTSU broke through again late in the opening quarter with a drive that got as close as the FAU seven-yard line before stalling out. Florida Atlantic's defense came up big with a stop, forcing the Blue Raiders to attempt a field goal. The 24-yard attempt by Cody Clark was good, giving MTSU a 10-7 lead at the end of one quarter.

Needing a response but unable to move the ball on a regular basis, FAU instead took the lead with the long ball. Johnson connected with Marcus Clark on a 46-yard pass and catch that ended in the end zone with FAU retaking the lead at 14-7 early in the second quarter.

Just before halftime, MTSU found the endzone for the second time of the day. The 13-yard scramble for a touchdown by Stockstill capped an eight-play, 45-yard drive to give the Blue Raiders a 17-14 lead heading into halftime.

The Blue Raiders looked to extend their lead early in the second half, but Sharrod Neasman picked off Stockstill and returned it back to the MTSU 48-yard line. The Owls moved just barely into field goal position at the 28-yard line and brought on Joseph for his first field goal attempt of the day. His 45-yard kick was right down the middle, bringing Florida Atlantic even with MTSU at 17-17.

Wasting no time with a response, MTSU was back in the lead 2:03 later on a 62-yard touchdown pass to James. That was the second touchdown catch of 60+ yards by James in the game. With the PAT, MTSU took a 24-17 lead.

Florida Atlantic would get two chances more late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, but came up short on both fourth down attempts. The first saw the Owls move to the MTSU three-yard line. Johnson was unable to get away from the MTSU pass rush, getting sacked and ending the drive.

The second drive got as close as the MTSU 19-yard line, before facing a fourth and 11. The fourth down pass into the endzone was just out of the reach of Kamrin Soloman, sealing MTSU's 24-17 win over FAU.

FAU is back in action again Saturday with trip to Gainesville to face Florida, while MTSU looks to gain bowl eligibility with North Texas coming to town.