FB: Blue Raider to host CUSA Championship after beating UAB

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Middle Tennessee's senior day turned into a preview of the Globe Life Conference USA Championship Game Saturday in Murfreesboro.

Thanks to FIU's 28-25 home loss to Marshall earlier in the day, the Blue Raiders (8-4, 7-1) clinched at least a share of their first C-USA East Division title. Then, they finished out the big day with a 27-3 win over UAB (9-3, 7-1) to clinch home-field advantage in the championship game and an outright East crown.

The Blazers will travel to Murfreesboro on Dec. 1 for a 12:30 p.m. championship game kickoff. It'll be the first time MT has hosted a conference title game and the first time either team has played for a C-USA championship.

"I'm really proud of our football team and especially proud of our seniors and what they've meant to this team this year and this program since they've been here," Head Coach Rick Stockstill said. "You start this journey back in January, and there's so much work you put into this game to reach this point.

"It's a really satisfying win not for me, but for our team and our locker room."

Tickets for the Globe Life Conference USA Championship Game are available and can be purchased at goblueraiders.com/tickets. Sideline tickets will be $24 with end zone tickets costing $18.

Middle Tennessee, which hasn't captured a conference championship since winning a share of the Sun Belt Conference in 2006, will go into the C-USA title game on a roll.

The Blue Raiders have won five of its last six games overall and five in a row over C-USA opponents, and their home winning streak is at seven games going back to last season.

"When you start in January, you want to win a conference championship," redshirt senior quarterback Brent Stockstill said. "That's been our goal all along ... and we made it.

"It's every player's dream, especially as a quarterback, to win a conference championship. We're excited for the opportunity and excited for the challenge."

UAB went into Saturday sporting one of the best defensive units in the country, ranking in the top-10 nationally in total defense, scoring, sacks per game, passing yards allowed, tackles for loss per game and both third-down and fourth-down conversions allowed.

It was Middle Tennessee that had the better defensive showing Saturday, though.

The Blue Raiders limited the Blazers to just 89 total yards, 5 coming in the second half. The away team had negative-1 yard on the ground with leading Blazer rusher Spencer Brown being held out of the game.

In total, UAB punted on 10 of its 14 possessions and turned the ball over once when MT senior Wesley Bush picked off his team-leading fifth pass of the season in the third quarter. The Blue Raiders also had seven sacks, led by redshirt junior Khalil Brooks' 2.5.

"[Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer] is a good play-caller, and he dialed it up," Brooks said. "We just had to run the plays, and it worked.

"I love this team. We have a lot of energy on defense ... and we don't care where the ball is at. We just play."

A defensive battle lasted through most of the first half, with MT taking a slim 6-3 lead to the 2:35 mark of the second quarter when the Raiders finally found the end zone.

Once they tasted pay dirt, the blue and white wanted more.

Three touchdowns - one apiece in the second, third and fourth quarters - ended a 27-0 run for the home team. Two came via Brent Stockstill passes, one to Ty Lee and another to Zack Dobson, and Dobson added his second score on a 45-yard rush with 9:30 left in the game.

Brent Stockstill, a Murfreesboro native, finished his senior day passing 22 for 29 with 261 yards and two touchdowns. Lee, a junior, caught seven passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, his sixth straight game with a TD, and Dobson had 30 yards receiving, 46 yards rushing and two scores.

Lee now has 21 receiving touchdowns in his career, tied for the third most in program history and just two behind Richie James' record of 23.

"It was a tough defense, but everything was just working right for us," Lee said. "We have to have a good week of practice [this week], and that's what I'm looking forward to."

Defensively, Middle Tennessee was led by sophomore DQ Thomas with seven tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Brooks added five tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss to go with his 2.5 sacks.

The defensive intensity was exactly what Rick Stockstill wants to see from his entire team in the title game.

"Now, we have to get back at it tomorrow ... and we'll look at what we did good and not so good and make adjustments," he said. "It's kind of unique playing the same team within a seven-day period, so we have to have a great week."


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