Middle Tennessee enjoyed a record-breaking performance with an array of high-powered offense, nasty defense and opportunistic special teams leading to a resounding 70-14 win in the 2015 season opener against Jackson State.
It was the highest-scoring season opener in the Blue Raiders' 101 seasons of football, eclipsing the previous high of 61 against Savannah State in the 2014 opener. It also tied for the second-most points scored in a game.
The Blue Raiders (1-0) piled up 633 yards total offense, which is the most under Head Coach Rick Stockstill. Middle Tennessee was balanced in its attack with 351 yards through the air and 282 on the ground.
Middle Tennessee's defense also had a stellar outing. The Blue Raiders allowed 304 yards total offense and just 33 yards net rushing as the defensive line was strong, and the linemen had solid penetration. Middle Tennessee's defense also got into the scoring act when sophomore linebacker DJ Sanders hauled in an interception and rambled 75 yards for a touchdown to put the finishing touches on the rout.
Even the special teams got into the scoring act when newcomer Jeremy Cutrer blocked a punt that resulted in a 63-yard touchdown by teammateJamarcus Howard.
The big story of the night was redshirt sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill, who enjoyed a record-setting night in his first career start. Stockstill completed 23-of-29 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdown passes are the most by a first-time starter in school history.
Senior receiver Ed Batties was on the receiving end of eight Stockstill completions for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The eight receptions tied a career high for Batties, who scored on plays of 24 and 4 yards.
Richie James had five catches for 66 yards. In fact, nine different Blue Raiders had receptions in the game.
Jordan Parker led a balanced ground attack with 68 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown, followed by Shane Tucker with 61 yards on 14 carries, andRuben Garnett finished with 45 yards and one touchdown. Jeremiah Brysonhad a big game with 33 yards on nine carries. Two of his nine carries went for touchdown runs of 2 and 1 yards.
After jumping out to a 14-7 lead after the first quarter, Middle Tennessee ambushed Jackson State in the second quarter when it piled up 28 points to vault to a 42-14 halftime advantage and never was threatened in the second half.
Middle Tennessee's defense was led by Cavelis Luckett's 5.5 tackles and one tackle for loss. Quay Watt had 3.5 tackles and 10 other Blue Raiders had two or more tackles.
MT POSTGAME NOTES:
CAPTAINS: Today's game captains were RB Jordan Parker, S Kevin Byardand CB Jared Singletary.
OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION: Middle Tennessee's 70 points scored were the most by the Blue Raiders in a season opener. The previous high was 61 vs. Savannah State in the 2014 opener. The 70 points are also tied for the second most in a game. The most points Middle Tennessee has scored in a game is 76 vs. North Alabama in 1927. Middle Tennessee piled up 633 yards total offense, marking just the fourth time the Blue Raiders have surpassed 600 yards of total offense under Stockstill. It also represents the 13th time in C-USA history that a team has scored 70 or more points.
STOCKSTILL HAS BIG DEBUT: Redshirt freshman signal-caller Brent Stockstill put on quite a display in his first career start under center. Stockstill completed 23 of 29 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdown passes are the most by a first time starter in school history.
CURTRER STRIKES: Jeremy Cutrer, playing in his first game as a Raider, recorded his first career blocked kick at the FBS level when he rejected a JSU punt to end the half that resulted in a 63-yard touchdown by teammateJamarcus Howard. It went down as the 34th career blocked kick in 113 games under Stockstill and the 14th punt. The blocked punt return for a TD was the first by MT since Oct. 24, 2013 when Chris Brown registered one at Marshall.
TO THE HOUSE: Sophomore linebacker DJ Sanders collected his second career interception against JSU and, as an added bonus, returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. Sanders' score put the finishing touches on the Blue Raiders' 70-14 win.
FIRST TIME HOOKUP: MT redshirt freshman QB Brent Stockstill and redshirt sophomore Lucas Hamilton will remember the first score against Jackson State for years to come. Stockstill connected with Hamilton for a 2-yard scoring pass to give the Blue Raiders a 7-0 first-quarter lead with 6:31 remaining. It was Stockstill's first career TD pass. Interestingly, it was also Hamilton's first career reception.
BIG NIGHT FOR ED: Senior wide receiver Ed Batties registered his second career 100-yard receiving game when he tallied a personal-best 123 yards on eight receptions in the win over Jackson State. He also equaled his career best with two touchdown grabs. Batties' only other 100-yard game came last year at FIU when he hauled in eight passes for 110 yards and two scores.
QUICK STRIKE OFFENSE: All five of Middle Tennessee's first-half scoring drives, excluding the return of a field goal block just before halftime, elapsed 3:46 or less. In fact, three of the five took less than three minutes and three of the five were on drives of 72 yards or longer. The Blue Raiders scored in 2:19, 3:28, 2:45, 3:46 and 2:25 on their way
LOCAL FLAVOR: RB Jeremiah Bryson powered in from the 2-yard line to give MT a 28-14 lead in the second quarter. Bryson and Stockstill played a role in all four first-half MT TDs, which local football fans should be use to seeing. Bryson (Smyrna HS) and Stockstill (Siegel HS) were local prep standouts in Rutherford County.
FIRST TIME STARTERS: The Blue Raiders had five players make their first career starts against JSU to open the 2015 campaign. The first timers were: QB Brent Stockstill, LT Chandler Brewer, RT Maurquice Shakir, DE Chris Hale, and RC Jeremy Cutrer.
FIRST TIME PLAYERS: RB Desmond Anderson, DE Peter Bailey, WR Derek Barnes, OL Chandler Brewer, WR Jim Cardwell, CBJeremy Cutrer, RB Ruben Garnett, LB Darius Harris, CB Dontavious Heard, WR Richie James, FB Corey McCarron, LB Chris Melton, P Trevor Owens, OL Maurquice Shakir.
QUICK HITTERS: LB DJ Sanders recorded his second career interception when he picked one off and went 75 yards for his first touchdown (7th longest in school history) ... Kevin Byard and James Roberson played in their team leading 38th career game tonight ... OL Darius Johnson would have joined that group but he was out with an injury ... Kevin Byard made his 38th straight start to lead the Raiders ... Brent Stockstill became just the second head coaches son to start at quarterback in C-USA history (In 1997-98, Tyson Helton started at Houston when his dad, Kim Helton, was the head coach) ... RB Jeremiah Bryson recorded his 10th and 11th career rushing touchdowns in the win over JSU (4th time in career he has had 2 rushing TDs in same game) ... The 28 second quarter points against Jackson State matched the most ever scored in a quarter under Rick Stockstill (vs North Texas in 2008 and WKU in 2009) ... RB Shane Tucker hauled in his fifth career touchdown reception early in the third quarter ... DE Justin Akins recorded his first career sack