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MT bowl hopes stay alive after final home game victory

Blue Raiders outscore Owls 24-7 in second half

November 27, 2010 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee football kept its bowl chances alive Saturday, winning its second straight, by knocking off Florida Atlantic 38-14 in front of 10,140 at Floyd Stadium in the Blue Raiders’ final home game of the 2010 campaign.

Quarterback Dwight Dasher completed 11-of-15 passes for 158 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Shane Blissard was the most frequent receiver of his attempts, grabbing four catches for 44 yards. Tavarres Jefferson topped the squad with 51 receiving yards on just two touches.

Senior Phillip Tanner gained a MT-best 150 yards on 15 carries and a score, while Dasher added 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his 15 rushes.

Justin Jones led the Blue Raider defense with seven tackles, one more than Jarrett Crittenton. However, Crittenton registered four tackles for a loss of 33 yards, including two sacks for minus-30 yards, among his half-dozen stops and two quarterback hurries.

Darin Davis came away with two interceptions and returned them for a combined Sun Belt-record 101 yards. He was one of six Middle Tennessee defenders with five stops, while Rod Issac added a third pick.

FAU signal-caller Jeff Van Camp finished 20-of-35 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Lester Jean hauled in game highs of eight receptions for 100 yards, catching both Van Camp scoring tosses, while Alfred Morris gained 40 yards on 19 runs.

Michael Lockley set the tone for the Owl defense with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops, while Marcus Bartels contributed seven tackles.

Florida Atlantic struck first on its initial possession when Van Camp located Jean for a 32-yard strike on fourth down at 10:52 for a 7-0 advantage. The Blue Raider defense had held firm throughout the drive, forcing the Owls to use 4:08 off the clock and 11 plays to cover the 57 yards. Just a couple plays earlier, Van Camp appeared to connect with Avery Holley for a touchdown, but the wide receiver dropped the pass as he rolled to the ground in the end zone.

The two teams traded possession of the ball before Middle Tennessee began its second drive at its own 31. Dasher hit Blissard across the middle on the first play before running for two yards. The next play was negated due to a Florida Atlantic penalty, which advanced the ball five more yards. On the Blue Raiders’ third play, Dasher hit Jefferson on a screen pass to the left side and the wide receiver sprinted through would-be tacklers and out-ran an Owl defender inside the five-yard line to score from 44 yards away and pull MT even, 7-7, at 2:33 of the first quarter.

The Blue Raiders started to drive as the second 15 minutes begun; however, Yourhighness Morgan stepped in front of a Dasher pass on the fifth play to return the ball to Florida Atlantic (4-7, 3-4 Sun Belt). The Owls attempted to capitalize on the turnover; however, after six plays, Ross Gornall pushed his 27-yard field goal try wide right, keeping the score deadlocked. Morris had four carries for 18 yards during the drive, while Van Camp completed both his passes for 19 yards, including an 18-yard toss to DeAndre Richardson.

It would not be until late in the second quarter before either team scored again. Middle Tennessee took control of the ball at 6:37 on its own 41. Dasher and Blissard combined for back-to-back completions, totaling 18 yards, setting the Blue Raiders up at the Owl 39. A pair of runs, including a nine-yard dash by Dasher, gave MT another first day on the FAU 29. Wide receiver Tyler Mason then broke free for a wide-open 29-yard touchdown catch from Dasher to give Middle Tennessee (5-6, 4-3 Sun Belt) a 14-7 edge with just 3:42 remaining in the half.

Neither team added any other points and the Blue Raiders went into the intermission ahead, 14-7.

Middle Tennessee turned to its ground attack to begin the third quarter. The opening drive featured 10 consecutive runs, including the first three of more than 10 yards, as the Blue Raiders quickly moved down the field. Once inside the five-yard line, Benjamin Cunningham was stopped for a loss of three yards and Dasher threw an incompletion through the end zone that was tipped by Morgan. Alan Gendreau then kicked a 23-yard field goal to give MT a 17-7 lead with 11:18 remaining in the frame.

After the teams again traded drives, Florida Atlantic gained possession at the halfway mark of the quarter. Davis was whistled for a 15-yard penalty on the Owls’ first play before Van Camp and Holley linked up for an eight-yard completion. On the next play, Davis erased the penalty by stepping in front of a Van Camp pass at the midfield stripe and racing down the visitor sideline 49 yards to the FAU 1. Dasher then went untouched on the next play around the left end to continue the momentum and put the Blue Raiders on top, 24-7, with 6:34 to go in the third quarter.

The Owls started to move down the field in hopes of putting a dent into the deficit. Van Camp looked to tight end Rob Housler on the drive’s seventh play; however, the ball bounced off his hands and into the waiting arms of Middle Tennessee defensive back Issac at the MT 20. Issac, who had a 100-yard fumble recovery last week to turn the tide at Western Kentucky, hauled in the deflection and raced 29 yards before being downed at the MT 49 on a Xavier Stinson tackle.

The miscue ended up not costing Florida Atlantic, as it halted the Blue Raider drive after 21 yards and seven plays and stopped Dasher on a fourth-down keeper to get the ball back on downs.

FAU’s first possession of the fourth quarter began near midfield on its own 48 with a two-yard Alfred Morris carry putting the ball at the center stripe. Van Camp then dropped back and threw his second interception to Davis on the next play. Davis outran the Owls along the home sideline for 52 yards, taking the ball down to the FAU 5. Again, it just took Middle Tennessee on play, as Dasher sprinted in from five yards to extend the margin to 24, 31-7, with 12:38 left.

Florida Atlantic did not quit, however, as it tacked on its second touchdown on its next possession. Van Camp completed all four of his passes and Holley ripped off a 28-yard rush to help the Owls move 55 yards on just six plays. Camp and Jean connected for the scoring strike in the back of the end zone from 23 yards out to cut the gap to 17, 31-14, at the 10:06 mark of the final stanza.

Tanner owned the next Blue Raider drive as he had all five of MT’s carries, accumulating 75 yards, to widen the margin back to 24, 38-14, at 7:59. Tanner capped the possession with a 44-yard sprint to the visitor sideline to move over the 100-yard plateau in his final collegiate home game and seal the final score.

Middle Tennessee will close its regular season next weekend when it travels to Miami to face the FIU Panthers. Kickoff time has yet to be determined for the game at FIU Stadium.

Middle Tennessee Postgame Notes:

DASHER TAKES OVER 3RD: Dwight Dasher, who had his first touchdown pass since the Arkansas State game, connected on his 38th and 39th career touchdown strikes in the first half to move him out of a tie with Clint Marks for third place on the all-time list. Dasher now needs two more touchdown passes to tie Teddy Morris for second place.

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Blue Raiders vs. FAU
GENDREAU TIES GARTH: PK Alan Gendreau connected on his 38th career field goal early in the third quarter against FAU. Gendreau is now tied with Garth Petrilli for third place on the all-time field goals made list and needs just two more to tie Brian Kelly for second.

DAVIS STRIKES AGAIN: Linebacker Darin Davis, who is enjoying his best season as a Blue Raider, came up with two huge plays to key the win over FAU. Davis picked off a pass in the third and fourth quarters and returned the first one 49 yards to set up a 1-yard TD run by Dwight Dasher, then brought the second back 52 yards to set up another Dasher score. It marked the second and third interceptions of the season for Davis and all three of his returns added up to 139 yards. He had a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown in the win over Austin Peay.

BIG PLAY ISSAC: Senior Rod Issac is having an all-conference type season for the Blue Raiders. The Miami, Fla., native collected his team-leading third interception today against FAU and he had just two picks for his career entering his final season. Issac returned one pick this year against ULM 70 yards for a touchdown and also added a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown last week at WKU. Issac, who now has 200 yards in returns this season, has brought back his three picks in 2010 for 100 yards which ranks tied for the seventh most interception return yards in a single-season (Markee Tate, 1994).

CRITTENTON STEPS UP: Jarrett Crittenton, who made just his second career start today against FAU, stepped up from his defensive tackle position. Crittenton registered a career-high 4.0 tackles for loss to go along with a two quarterback sacks. The 4.0 TFLs are tied for the second most in a game at MT. The senior registered his first career sack last week at WKU.

SECOND ALL-TIME: Darin Davis recorded 101 interception return yards against FAU on his two picks. That total ranks as the second most in a game all-time at MT behind Jimmy Saunders’ 105 yards against Tennessee Tech in 1978. It also goes down as a new Sun Belt Conference record breaking the old mark of 99 yards set by North Texas’ Maurice Holman in 2005 against Middle Tennessee.

TANNER TOPS 100: Senior Phillip Tanner registered his fifth career 100-yard rushing game in the win over FAU by tallying 15 carries for 150 yards and a touchdown. Tanner now has a team-leading three 100-yard games this season which is the most in a year during his career. The five 100-yard rushing games rank 15th all-time at MT.

QUICK HITTERS: Middle Tennessee moved to 23-1 all-time under Rick Stockstill when scoring 30 or more points in a game … Dwight Dasher’s third quarter touchdown run was the 22nd of his career which is the most by any quarterback in school history and he added his 23rd  in the fourth quarter ... MT won the coin toss against FAU for the first time this season … FAU scored a TD on its opening drive marking the sixth time this year MT has given up a TD on the opening drive of the game … Freshman Corey Carmichael made his first career start at LB in place of the injured Antwan Davis … DT Jarrett Crittenton made his second career start today in place of the injured Gary Tucker … S Jeremy Kellem played in his team-high 48h career game today …  The Blue Raiders opened the second half with a field goal drive, marking just the third time this season they have scored to begin the second half.

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