The importance of special teams can never be underestimated in the game of football. Yes, offense and defense get’s more attention, but the special teams can really light a fuse or even decide the game. The season opener for Middle Tennessee State on September 4 saw one of those match-striking plays that ignited an explosion.
Facing a feisty Monmouth squad at Floyd Stadium, the Blue Raiders battled through a scoreless first quarter. Eager to put a disappointing 2020 behind them, MTSU had something to prove. Obviously the first 15 minutes had not gone totally according to plan, but the game is played for four quarters.
Having held Monmouth and forcing a punt to begin the second stanza, the stage was set. A low spiraling kick was welcomed into the arms of punt returner Jaylin Lane. Immediately bolting in a North and South direction, the speedy freshman left the initial wave of defenders in his dust. A quick zig-zag to the sideline left others tackling air and a big block from JaMichael Thompson sent Lane prancing to paydirt.
“Jaylin did a great job of making the first guys miss’, says Blue Raider head coach Rick Stockstill. “The block by Thompson and some others helped set him free. From there he just outran everyone else. It was a great momentum play and jump started us.”
The Blue Raiders put up two more touchdowns in the second quarter and were up 21-7 at the half. A 22 point fourth quarter blew things open as MTSU mangled Monmouth by a final score of 50-15. But it all got started with a lightning-like punt return by Jaylin Lane. And maybe this even better. That big play was authored by a warrior that stands 5-feet 8 and weighs 175 pounds.
Middle Tennessee State travels to Virginia Tech on September 11 for their next contest. The next home game will be October 2 when the Blue Raiders play host to conference rival Marshall.