The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders scored 14 points in the last 1:42 of the first half to take a lead they would never surrender in a 41-21 victory over the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday, in rainy Doyt Perry Stadium.
The teams exchanged the lead through most of the first half, as both benefitted from turnovers that gave them a short-field touchdown. The Falcons Ronnie Moore muffed a punt and gave the Raiders the ball inside the Bowling Green 10 yard line. Three plays later Brent Stockstill hit Ty Lee from 6 yard out and it was 7-0, Middle Tennessee.
The Raiders’ Richie James then returned the favor and fumbled a punt and gave the Falcons the ball at the Middle Tennessee 21 yard line. Four plays later, Josh Cleveland went in from a yard out and the Falcons had tied the score at 7-7.
Bowling Green then got its running game going and scored two touchdowns on the ground to take a 21-14 lead that looked like it might hold up until halftime. Stockstill then hit James from 16 yards out to make the score 21-21. And then a Bowling Green fumble on the ensuing possession gave the Raiders the ball back with under two minutes left in the half. The Raiders moved down the field quickly and I'Tavius Mathers ran in from four yards to give Middle Tennessee the lead at the half, 28-21.
Middle Tennessee took the opening kick of the second half and Stcokstill hit Mathers with a swing pass on the very first play that turned into a 78-yard touchdown. The Raiders had extended their lead to 35-21 and the game was basically over from there, as the Falcons would not score again in this one.
Most of the second half was played in a driving rain storm and both teams reverted to the running game. The Falcons had a lot of success running the ball but their drives always seemed to bog down inside the red zone.
Bowling Green would rush for 304 yards and three touchdowns in this one, but got little through the air. Quarterback James Knapke finished with just 129 yards passing and two interceptions. Junior Josh Cleveland would gain 153 yards on 18 carries, with a touchdown. Senior Fred Coppet would also go over the 100-yard mark with 117 on 27 carries. Donovan Wilson had another 36 yards on the ground and two scores for Bowling Green.
Stockstill finished with 278 yards passing and three touchdown on the day. Mathers had a big day with 157 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and 107 receiving, including the long touchdown.
The team stats were fairly even, as the Raiders led in total yards 436-433, and the Falcons had 24 first downs to 20 for the Raiders. However the Falcons had four costly turnovers and committed eight penalties for 79 yards in the game.
Middle Tennessee moves to 2-1 on the year, while Bowling Green fall to 1-2. The Falcons will travel to Tennessee next Saturday to take on the Memphis Tigers in their final non-conference game during the regular season.