This Week in Blue Raider Football: The first OVC win

Raiders rush for nearly 600 yards against UT Martin in 1990

October 17, 2013 · @MTAthletics

October 18, 1952 - Middle Tennessee collects first OVC win

Middle Tennessee made its' debut in the Ohio Valley Conference in 1952.  On Oct. 18 of that year, the football team lined up against the Morehead State Eagles for would turn out to be their first conference win. Middle Tennessee was led by sixth-year head coach Charles "Bubber" Murphy. The Blue Raiders dominated the Eagles for a 27-6 victory that day, en route to a 2-2 first-year conference mark.

Over the next several years Middle Tennessee would come to dominate the conference. The Blue Raiders won the OVC title 10 times including four in a row from 1956-59. They also reached the 1-AA playoffs seven times, with an equally impressive streak of five years in a row from 1989 to 1994.

The two coaches that primarily led the Blue Raiders during this time were Murphy and Boots Donnelly. Murphy's first year at the helm was 1947. His Raiders went 9-1 with impressive victories over in-state rivals Memphis and Tennessee Tech. He finished his career in 1968 with a record of 155-63-8, six conference titles and four bowl appearances. His win total still ranks as the best in school history, and his winning percentage his second behind only Johnny "Red" Floyd. In 1972 when the new basketball arena was built on campus it was named in Murphy's honor.

Donnelly took over the football program in 1979. His career started slow as he amassed a record of just 9-22 in his first three seasons. However, back-to-back eight win seasons in 1982 and 1983, followed by an 11-3 mark and a trip to the 1-AA Semifinals in 1984 cemented Donnelly's legacy with the Blue Raiders. His career as head coach ended in 1998, but he finished with a record of 140-87-1, four conference championships, and all seven of the Blue Raiders' 1-AA playoff appearances. His win total ranks second among MT coaches, just 15 behind Murphy. He is also one of only two Raider coaches with 100 victories. For his illustrious career, Donnelly was enshrined in the Blue Raider Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame earlier this year.

October 13, 1990 - Blue Raiders rush past UT Martin

Middle Tennessee has had a great history of running backs. Names like Joe Campbell, Kippy Bayless, Dwone Hicks, Phillip Tanner and Benny Cunningham have graced the Blue Raider backfield. And on an Oct. day in 1990, a handful of running backs combined to help Middle Tennessee rush for nearly 600 yards.

The Blue Raiders were coming into their game with UT Martin on October 13, 1990 off of a tough loss the week before at Eastern Kentucky. The Pacers, now Skyhawks, were coming into the game in a transitional period. They were making the move from Division II to Division I and would join the Blue Raiders in the Ohio Valley Conference the following season.

UT Martin jumped out to an early 17-10 lead, but the All-American Campbell led his team to 55 unanswered points and the huge 65-17 victory. He rushed for a personal best 226 yards in the game, a record he would surpass with 235 yards two weeks later against Morehead State. Campbell also scored four touchdowns, all in the first half.

Middle Tennessee scored on all six of their second half possessions in the game, including rushing touchdowns from Mike Crenshaw, Wade Johnson, Ricky Martin and Jeff Taylor. The final rushing total for the Blue Raiders in the game was 592 yards, a record that still stands today.

The momentum of that victory pushed Middle Tennessee through the remainder of their season as they won the final five games of the regular season by an average score of 46-7. The Blue Raiders earned a share of the OVC Title and a berth in the 1-AA playoffs, ultimately losing in the National Quarterfinals to Boise State 20-13 in Boise.

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