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This Week in Blue Raider History: MT upsets Vandy

MT wins 17-15 over Commodores in 2005

October 1, 2013 · @MTAthletics

In this week of Blue Raider Football History, GoBlueRaiders.com recaps Middle Tennessee's thrilling 17-15 victory at Vanderbilt in 2005.

October 1, 2005 - Blue Raiders block down 'Dores

Former Middle Tennessee coach Andy McCollum was known for preparing his teams to play well in big games, especially against in-state rival Vanderbilt. The Blue Raiders defeated the Commodores all three times the schools met in McCollum's seven years at the helm, but the final one was arguably the most dramatic.

On Oct. 1, 2005, the 0-3 Blue Raiders traveled to Nashville to take on the 4-0 'Dores at Vanderbilt Stadium. The game started slowly as Vanderbilt got the only points of the first quarter. Kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt made a 42-yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the first stanza to give Vanderbilt the 3-0 lead. But the Raiders came right back, scoring two touchdowns on the ground.

After Jonathan Harris intercepted a Vandy pass and returned it to the Commodore two-yard line, Quarterback Clint Marks scored on a 3-yard scamper to make the score 7-3 MT.

On the next Blue Raider drive, Marks threw for 60 of the 84 yards gained on the drive. The big play was a 44-yard pass to Bobby Williams that moved the Raiders to the Vanderbilt 28-yard line. Running back Eugene Gross capped the drive from 8-yards out and the Blue Raiders seemed to be in control 14-3 with just 3:45 left before halftime.

On the ensuing drive Vanderbilt drove the ball to the Blue Raider five, but Middle Tennessee's defense held on three straight plays to force another Hahnfeldt field goal. The kick cut the Blue Raider lead to 14-6 as the teams headed for the locker room.

With just over five minutes left in the third quarter Vandy senior Jay Cutler, an eventual first-round NFL draft pick, drove his team down to the Middle Tennessee 24.The 'Dores had three rushes on the drive for over 10 yards a piece, but the Blue Raider defense held for yet another Hahnfeldt field goal, making the score 14-9 Middle Tennessee.

The Blue Raiders finally gave up their first touchdown of the night on the first drive of the fourth quarter. Earl Bennett returned a Colby Smith punt 16 yards to the MT 43 to give Vanderbilt good field position. Cutler capitalized as he led his team to three first downs on the drive, capping it with a 16-yard pass to Erik Davis for the score. The two-point conversion failed, but for the first time since the first quarter, Middle Tennessee trailed, 15-14.

The Blue Raiders came back just three drives later. Starting at their own 36-yard line, Middle Tennessee countered with a nine-play, 53-yard drive culminating in a 29-yard field goal from Smith to give Middle Tennessee the lead again, 17-15. The Blue Raider defense then forced a three-and-out by the Commodores, getting the ball back with only 5:27 left in the game.

But on the ensuing drive, Middle Tennessee was only able to pick up one first down, and could only run 2:40 off the clock. However, that set up Smith with his best punt of the night. Kicking from the 'Dores 39, he got off a 38-yard beauty that was downed at the Vandy one-yard line. The Commodores now had to go 99 yards with only 2:47 left against a defense that had stymied them all night.

But Cutler was not phased. Even with no timeouts, the future Denver Bronco would lead his own attempt at "The Drive" as he methodically moved his 'Dores down to the doorstep of pay dirt. With less than 20 seconds left, Cutler completed a 7-yard pass on third and six to the Blue Raider 18. Cutler downed the ball, setting up Hahnfeldt for a chance at converting his fourth field goal of the game. But Blue Raider Jeremiah Weaver had other plans.

Weaver broke through the Vanderbilt line and blocked the field goal to give Middle Tennessee their third win in a row over the Commodores, improving to 3-0 against Vanderbilt in the 1-A era. The win was the Blue Raiders first of the season. However, the defeat was hard to handle for the Commodores. Vanderbilt was undefeated and just two wins away from bowl eligibility when the night started.

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