Middle Tennessee’s Run Game Powers Blue Raiders Past Charlotte

photo from MTSU Athletics

Middle Tennessee’s special teams and run game powered the Blue Raiders in cold weather on Saturday, blocking two kicks and scoring three touchdowns between them in a 24-14 win over Charlotte at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium.

Decorian Patterson gave MTSU (5-5, 2-4 C-USA) a spark early, ensuring that the first Charlotte drive would earn no points after blocking a 29-yard field goal attempt. Marley Cook would come up big at the start of the second half, pushing the up back into the 49er punter, with Jordan Ferguson running the kick back into the endzone to tie the game.

Frank Peasant scored twice on the ground, including a 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that put the Blue Raiders ahead of the 49ers (2-9, 1-6 C-USA) for good. Nick Vattiato was efficient starting in place of the injured Chase Cunningham, completing 22-of-29 passes (76 percent) for 203 yards. Elijah Metcalf paced the receiving core with eight catches for 83 yards against his hometown team.

The MTSU defense was once again active in the backfield, forcing six tackles for loss on the afternoon. Tra Fluellen led all players with 16 tackles (eight solo), while Jakobe Thomas added an interception to the Blue Raiders’ defensive effort.

By the Numbers

16: Tackles for Safety Tra Fluellen, a career high for the safety. The Gilmer, Texas native also recorded 1.5. tackles for loss as part of his total on Saturday.

3: Number of games with multiple touchdowns for Frank Peasant this season, who scored two on the ground on Saturday. The sophomore running back had previously scored multiple times against Tennessee State (3) and Colorado State (2).

5: Total number of blocked kicks for MTSU in 2022. The Blue Raiders picked up their fourth and fifth of the season on Saturday.

Blue Raider Notes

CAPTAINS: Today’s game captains were Yusuf AliChase CunninghamJordan FergusonJaylin Lane, and Ja’Kerrius Wyatt.

MORE BLOCKS: Middle Tennessee, which entered the game ranked ninth nationally in blocked kicks, recorded its fourth and fifth of the season against Charlotte. The Blue Raiders blocked a field goal and a punt. The field goal went down as the first career blocked kick for Patterson and the blocked punt was the first of Marley Cook’s career. The five blocked kicks this season is the most since the Blue Raiders had five in 2014. Overall, 53 kicks have been blocked in the Rick Stockstill era with 27 field goals, 20 punts and 6 PATs.

METCALF VS. HOMETOWN: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Elijah Metcalf enjoyed a solid outing against his hometown team. Metcalf, from Charlotte, NC, made his first career start and responded with a personal-best 8 receptions for 83 yards.

SPECIAL SCORING PLAY: Marley Cook blocked a punt in the third quarter, the second blocked punt of the season for the Blue Raiders. Jordan Ferguson recovered the ball at the 1 and scored the touchdown, the second special teams touchdown of the season. It was the second career touchdown for the senior.

TACKLING MACHINE: Safety Tra Fluellen established a new career-high in tackles against Charlotte with 16 stops. He bested his previous high of 11 tackles set against UTSA and WKU earlier this season. It also marked his fourth double digit tackle performance of the season.

ENDZONE FRANK: Frank Peasant had his third multi-touchdown game of the season with 2 touchdowns. His previous two came against Colorado State (2) and Tennessee State (3).

QUICK HITTERS: Jordan Ferguson made his 32nd consecutive start against Charlotte today while Kyle Ulbrich made his 36th in a row … Ferguson also played in his team-leading 55th career game … The Blue Raiders had multiple blocked kicks in a game today for the first time since having two against WKU in 2011 … QB Nick Vattiato made his first start since the Bahamas Bowl victory over Toledo last year … Safety Jakobe Thomas recorded his second interception of the season when he stopped a Charlotte drive early in the fourth quarter … PK Zeke Rankin’s fourth quarter field goal was his 11th consecutive made field goal which ranks as the second longest streak in school history and one shy of equaling the school record of 12.

Thoughts from Head Coach Rick Stockstill

“It was a tough, hard fought win. I knew it was going to be like that. Really proud of our team. The defense shut them out in the second half. We turned them over a couple of times. Got three fourth down stops in the second half, which are like turnovers. Got a blocked kick and a score in the kicking game. And offensively, did a lot better job in the second half of finishing drives than we did in the first half.”

Up Next

Middle Tennessee stays in Murfreesboro next week for their final home game of the 2022 season, celebrating Senior Day against FAU. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on ESPN+ and the Blue Raider Radio Network.

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