It’s Nov. 11, a day to remember the sacrifices that veterans have made for American citizens. On today, the Niners will honor military members and their families prior to taking on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. The team is looking to bounce back after a road loss to Old Dominion and is searching for their second straight home win.
Scoping the Blue Raiders
Middle Tennessee, which is 4-5 coming into today’s contest, is only two victories away from securing a bowl game with three games remaining. The team had a tough non-conference schedule, losing to Vanderbilt and Minnesota but picking up their first of the season versus Syracuse back on Sept. 9. The Blue Raiders average 20.3 points and surrender an average of 24.3, so they will have their work cut out for them.
In last year’s meeting, MTSU was up by 18 points before receiver Ty Lee scored a backbreaking touchdown run with one minute remaining to win, 35-31. This season, Lee has accumulated 120 rushing yards and rushing one touchdown. In addition, he has 611 receiving yards and four scores to lead the receivers, while Richie James (290 yards, three touchdowns) and Brad Anderson (323 receiving yards, three touchdowns) follow him. Anderson also leads the team with 486 rushing yards, while tailback Tavares Thomas (171 yards, four touchdowns) has been the main scorer out of the backfield.
Quarterback John Urzua is back for the Blue Raiders, and he’s gone 136-220 for 1522 yards and seven touchdowns so far, but has also tossed nine interceptions. Redshirt junior backup Brent Stockstill has seen some meaningful action this season, and he’s gone 53-97 for seven touchdowns to only three picks. Expect to see a combination of these two on Saturday.
The defense is led by safety Jovante Moffat. The junior leads the team with 58 total tackles, and he’s followed by DJ Sander’s 46 tackles. Linebacker Khalil Brooks has 41 tackles and leads the team with 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Brooks is the biggest threat in the backfield, so Charlotte’s offensive line will have to block effectively to keep him from wreaking havoc.
The Niners will look to avenge last season’s loss. Last year, the Niners were 4-6 when they faced off against the Blue Raiders, and if they had won, they would’ve been one game away from securing a bowl game. However, Lee’s touchdown left too little time on the clock. This season, the Niners have struggled, but winning this game would provide a big confidence booster, considering that MTSU is undefeated all-time in the series.
Last weekend, Charlotte lost 6-0 to ODU. While the defense stepped up (six points is the fewest points the Niners have allowed in an FBS contest), the offense struggled to get anything going. The rushing attack was stalled, and running backs Aaron McAllister and Benny LeMay will need to have huge games against the Blue Raiders. LeMay has 585 rushing yards on the year, while McAllister (who started out as a third-string back) has 361 yards with two scores.
Hasaan Klugh has continued to improve, as he has scored 13 touchdowns this year (six passing, seven rushing). His 471 rushing yards is second on the team; however, the Niners will need for the passing game to get going in order to have a chance against MTSU. The Niners’ rushing attack is well-documented, and MTSU will be looking to close the gaps.
Overall, expect this game to be an emotional one. The football and military connections run deep in Charlotte, and Anthony Butler, Jeff Gemmell and Ben DeLuca will be anchoring the defense. Considering the defense’s play as of late, they should be able to stop the Blue Raiders.
The game against Middle Tennessee kicks off at 2 p.m.