Middle Tennessee flexed its muscle and showed great determination while excelling in all three phases of the game in a 41-28 win against Old Dominion in a nationally-televised game Friday.
Hear the entire game below:
The Blue Raiders piled up 539 yards and had two players establish career highs, their defense registered six sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery, and Middle Tennessee also scored a special teams touchdown when Kevin Byard went 76 yards to hit paydirt.
Austin Grammer enjoyed a career night. He completed 25-of-30 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. His 83.3 completion percentage was fifth all-time. Grammer also rushed for 67 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 25 completions were a career high.
Tailback Jordan Parker was a beast. He rushed for a career-high 158 yards on 31 carries to lead a ground attack that churned out 280 yards behind a determined offensive line that turned in a strong performance both in pass protection and run blocking.
Not only did Byard return a punt for a touchdown, but he also forced a fumble and hauled in an interception.
Middle Tennessee (3-2, 2-0) maintained its lead atop the C-USA standings, while ODU (3-2, 1-1) suffered its first league loss.
WGNS will air a special encore broadcast of Middle's win at Old Dominion Saturday at 1pm.
Middle Tennessee jumped out to a 24-0 lead but ODU wouldn't go quietly.
ODU had pulled to within 24-14 midway through the third quarter when Grammer came up with one of his biggest drives of the early season.
Grammer marched the Blue Raiders 63 yards in seven plays and capped the impressive drive with a 10-yard touchdown run - his second rushing touchdown of the game. Grammer was 3-for-4 on the drive with Terry Pettis hauling in two passes for 36 yards. The biggest came on a third-and-6 play from the ODU 28. Grammer eluded tacklers and somehow got the pass off to Pettis who made an acrobatic grab. Grammer ran in from the 10 one play later as the Blue Raiders quickly answered the ODU scoring drive.
The drive was even bigger when ODU came right back on the following drive and answered with a score to once again pull to within 10, 31-21, going into the fourth quarter.
Just as before Middle Tennessee combined stingy defense with a striking offense to pull away.
ODU had possession down 31-21 but Blue Raider defenders Shubert Bastien and Leighton Gasque came up with back-to-back sacks to force a punt. The two sacks on the drive gave Middle Tennessee six in the game at that point.
Middle Tennessee came right back on Grammer's hot hand. Grammer connected with Marcus Henry for a 53-yard scoring strike to extend the Blue Raider lead to 38-21 with 10:48 remaining. It was Grammer's 25th completion.
After ODU scored to pull to within 38-28, Middle Tennessee answered once again when Cody Clark connected on a 29-yard field goal. Clark's second successful kick of the game pushed the lead to 41-28 with 5:18 remaining.
Byard sealed the win with his 12th career interception with less than four minutes remaining. He is sixth on the all-time list for interceptions.
The high-scoring affair started as a defensive struggle as the teams battled to a scoreless tie after the first quarter.
Both teams were guilty of turnovers in the red zone in the first quarter. The second quarter was a different story for Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders scored 17 points in a span of 2:09 to bolt to a 17-0 lead with 11:21 remaining in the first half. Grammer added a 7-yard touchdown run later in the quarter as Middle Tennessee extended its cushion to 24-0. ODU scored before the
half to pull to within 24-7 at intermission.
Middle Tennessee's defense forced three first-half turnovers. T.T. Barber hauled in his fifth career interception to stop an early drive. Shon Akins, making his first career start at corner, collected an interception at the ODU 27 to set up a Blue Raider score. Byard's forced fumble and Jared Singletary's recovery was a big turning point early.
The Blue Raiders dominated the first quarter but settled for a scoreless tie. They dominated time of possession and the line of scrimmage.
An impressive Middle Tennessee drive stalled at the ODU 6 when Cody Clark came on to boot a 23-yard field goal that provided the Blue Raiders a 3-0 lead with 13:30 remaining in the half.
After the Blue Raider defense forced a three-and-out, Byard continued to make his presence known with a spectacular special teams play when he took the punt and raced 76 yards for a touchdown. Clark's extra point pushed the lead to 10-0. Making Byard's return even more impressive was the fact it was the first of his career. It was the longest in MT's FBS era (since 1999) and the ninth longest in school history.
Akins collected an interception on the following ODU drive and the Blue Raiders converted it into points when Grammer connected with Shane Tucker for a 27-yard touchdown. The point after extended the lead to 17-0 with 11:21 remaining in the half.
Grammer added a 7-yard touchdown run midway through the quarter. ODU narrowed the margin to 24-7 with a scoring drive just before halftime.