Raiders bowl eligible after victory on senior day

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Middle Tennessee did what it had to do to reach bowl eligibility Saturday, taking care of Old Dominion 41-10 at home on senior day to wrap up the 2017 regular season.

With the win, the Blue Raiders (6-6, 4-4) reach bowl eligibility for the sixth season in a row and leave their bowl fate up to selection committees. The Monarchs' (5-7, 3-5) season ends with the loss, which snapped a three-game winning streak.

"It was a great win, and I'm really proud of our team and proud of our seniors," MT head coach Rick Stockstill said. "This team, what they've accomplished and everything they've overcome, it's special.

"We beat a good football team tonight. For us to handle them like we did, it was fun to watch."

The two teams looked evenly matched early on, as they both cashed in with field goals on their first drives for an early 3-3 tie.

That all changed with a blocked kick on ODU's second possession, which seemed to energize the Blue Raiders.

On a 41-yard attempt, redshirt junior cornerback Darryl Randolph came off the edge for his second blocked field goal of the season and returned it to midfield. Middle Tennessee responded with 21 unanswered points over the rest of the first half, taking a 24-3 advantage into the locker room.

"Before the blocked field goal, I felt like we could get one," senior linebacker D.J. Sanders said. "[After that], it just seemed like things started going our way.

"We started off a little slow ... but we knew what we had to do and had a mission to accomplish in this game."

After halftime, the Blue Raiders overcame two interceptions thrown by redshirt junior quarterback Brent Stockstill and continued the scoring run thanks to the continued strength of their defense.

The Monarchs went scoreless over nine straight possessions after their game-opening field goal, three times turning the ball over on downs on MT's side of the field and averaging just 3.28 yards per play over the span.

When they scored with 4:51 left in the game, it ended a 41-0 run by the Blue and White.

Freshman defensive lineman Jordan Ferguson spearheaded the effort defensively. He racked up six tackles and also got into the ODU backfield for three tackles for loss.

"Our defense is unbelievable," Brent Stockstill said. "When they get those three-and-outs, it helps the offense get in a better rhythm. Credit to those guys, they've been great all year and they were once again tonight."

Middle Tennessee's stout defense allowed its offense to rediscover its rhythm towards the end of the third quarter, as redshirt sophomore Terelle West continued the scoring run with a pair of TDs.

West, who went into the game with 73 rushing yards on the season in just five games played because of injury, had a career day. He set new personal highs in rushing yards (170) and rushing attempts (26) to go with the two scores. He also caught three passes for 25 yards.

The Blue Raiders racked up a total of 320 rushing yards on 50 attempts.

"I just give it all to the offensive line," West said. "These last few games, they've really stepped up ... and have just been playing great."

Brent Stockstill finished 21-of-30 passing for 266 yards, three TDs and two INTs. His favorite target was sophomore Ty Lee, who hauled in eight passes for 70 yards, and sophomore CJ Windham added five catches for 47 yards and the first TD of his career. Freshman Jimmy Marshall and junior Tavonn Salter also had TD receptions.

Defensively, junior Jovante Moffatt had seven tackles and a tackle for loss, and Sanders had six tackles. Redshirt senior Myles Harges also had a sack to go with two tackles.

While it may be out of their control, Coach Stockstill believes the Blue Raiders should be worthy of a bowl bid, which would be the seventh in his 12 seasons at MT and third in a row.

"I think we'll get in a bowl because, one, we deserve to be in one," he said. "We played the toughest schedule in this conference ... and we'll bring a lot of fans to a bowl, sell a lot of tickets and they're going to see a really good team, because we're getting better. You can see that these last four weeks.

"I'm very, very confident ... that we'll get in one."

Middle Tennessee will find out if it's invited to a bowl game on Dec. 3 during Selection Day.

POSTGAME NOTES

CAPTAINS: Today's game captains were S Jovante Moffatt, OL/TE Ty Watkins and P Matt Bonadies.

STOCKSTILL SETS COMPLETION MARK: With 21 completions today against Old Dominion, QB Brent Stockstill became the school's all-time leader with 710. Stockstill surpassed Wes Counts (706) for the new school record.

BOWL ELIGIBLE ... AGAIN: With a win over Old Dominion today, Middle Tennessee became bowl eligible for the sixth straight year and the ninth time in 12 years under Rick Stockstill. The Blue Raiders have been bowl eligible under Stockstill in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

LEE MOVES UP: Sophomore Ty Lee hauled in eight receptions against Old Dominion to give him 137 for his career. He now ranks fifth on the all-time receptions list after surpassing Tavarres Jefferson today (131).

RANDOLPH WITH THE BLOCK: Junior Darryl Randolph came up with his second career blocked kick when he rejected an ODU field goal in the first quarter. Randolph also blocked a field goal attempt by FAU earlier this season and now the Raiders have three blocked kicks on the season. The blocked field goal went down as the 40th blocked kick under Rick Stockstill (21 FGs, 15 punts, 4 Pats).

CAREER DAY FOR WEST: Sophomore Terelle West, making his first career start today, rushed for a career-high 170 yards today in the win over the Monarchs and scored a career best two touchdowns. West's previous high was an 83-yard effort against Alabama A&M in the 2016 season opener. West became the fourth different running back this season to top the 100-yard mark.

STRONG DEFENSIVE EFFORT: For the ninth time this season, the Middle Tennessee defense held the opposition to under 400 yards of total offense. MT had just four games of holding the opponent below 400 yards a year ago. The Blue Raiders have also allowed just one touchdown in its last two home games combined.

QUICK HITTERS: PK Canon Rooker played in his team-high 51st game tonight ... LB DJ Sanders made his team-leading 25th straight start ... QB Brent Stockstill has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 22 straight games played ... Canon Rooker's 28-yard FG in the first quarter was the 30th of his career which ties him with Colby Smith for 8th on the all-time list ... Tavonn Salter's 44-yard TD grab was the longest reception of his career ... WR CJ Windham recorded his first TD reception of the season today ... The Blue Raiders have now won 17 of their last 23 games in the month of November ... The 41 points scored today by MT was the most at home this season ... The Blue Raiders rushed for a season-high 320 yards ... Redshirt freshman Crews Holt made his first career field goal attempt from 41 yards.

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