Home openers are always a joyous time for programs. When you open up against an old neighborhood rival things are even a little more amped up.
On Saturday, September 17, Middle Tennessee State (1-1) toes the turf at Floyd Stadium for the first time in 2022. Lining up opposite the Blue Raiders will be the Tigers of Tennessee State (0-2). After playing on the road for two weeks, the Raiders are ready for the green, green grass of home.
“It seems like it has been a long time since we have had a home game”, says MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill. “We played our final regular season game last year on the road then played in the Bahamas Bowl. Now we are well into September and just now enjoying a home game. Needless to say, we are very excited.”
This game has the makings of not just any home opener. Located just up the road, Tennessee State has been a part of this backyard battle since the series began back in 1973. During that span, these two have met a total of 20 times with the series being deadlocked as each has won 10 times. The previous two meetings (1998, 2019) were played in Murfreesboro with the Blue Raiders winning both.
“There is a little more excitement for this home opener because of the proximity of the two schools and a lot of the players know each other”, says Stockstill. “They have a lot of transfers that have come in and their program is much improved under Eddie George. We’ve got our hands full for sure and we know it’s going to be a real fight.”
The Blue Raiders fell hard in the season opener at James Madison (44-7) but went to Colorado State last week and upset the Rams (34-19). Excelling in all phases of the game, MTSU used a pick 6 by safety Tra Fluellen on the game’s first play from scrimmage to send an early message. Never looking back, Middle Tennessee State built a 27-0 lead at halftime and coasted to their first win.
“I am very proud of how our team responded after a disappointing first week”, says Stockstill. “The season is a marathon and we just have to keep believing and keep working. We played excellent complimentary football at Colorado State. Now it’s time to work on getting better this week.”
Kickoff on September 17 is slated for 6 pm at Floyd Stadium on the campus of Middle Tennessee State.