Blue Raiders fall flat in home opener

The Blue Raiders came into Saturday's Centennial Celebration with high expectations. After a near-miss last week at Purdue, there were plenty of reasons to believe this team has the potential to be the real deal. Unfortunately, that potential never materialized into tangible production on the field as they fell to Georgia Tech by a final of 49-21.

Tech set the pace of this one from the first play of scrimmage: Quarterback Tevin Washington hit a wide open Tony Zenon for a 73 yard touchdown pass. The rest of the game went about the same for Middle Tennessee, who saw Washington sitting at 3-for-3 for 186 yards and two touchdowns at one point early in the second quarter.

On offense, Middle Tennessee was kept off the scoreboard until late in the second quarter when senior running back D.D. Kyles scored on a strong 15-yard run with 3:12 left in the half. By that point though, the damage had already been done and Georgia Tech was up 28-7.

When the first thirty minutes were over, the stat sheet supported every bit of the lopsided score.

Total Offense
Ga. Tech – 350 yards (202 passing, 148 rushing)
Middle Tennessee – 194 (86 passing, 108 rushing)

Time of possession
Georgia Tech – 17:50
Middle Tennessee – 12:10

Turnovers
Georgia Tech – 0
Middle Tennessee – 2
The Yellow Jackets seemingly scored at will in the first half, finding the endzone on each of their first four drives including a 98-yard drive that saw Tech convert a fourth down play inside the Blue Raider 10. Washington accounted for all four Tech touchdowns in the first half with 202 passing yards, two rushing touchdowns and the aforementioned pair of touchdown lobs.
For the Blue Raiders, the first half was painful on both sides of the ball. The offense struggled to put together long drives and the defense struggled to stop Georgia Tech's triple option. Unfortunately, both of those trends continued into the second half. Leaders in the first half were Kilgore, who went 12-for-20 for 86 yards and an interception and Benjamin Cunningham led the halfbacks with eight rushes and 61 yards. Anthony Amos paced the receivers through the air, hauling in two passes for 28 yards.

While Georgia Tech was widely expected to win this one, not many anticipated such a lopsided affair. Middle Tennessee's potent spread offense appeared to lose the sting that saw them put up 460 yards of total offense last week. Kilgore didn't seem to have the same rapport with his receivers this week, with the passing game looking sloppy. Several times he threw behind receivers or over shot them which, at one point, resulted in a Yellow Jacket interception.

On the ground, the Blue Raiders looked capable, but playing from behind prevented them from utilizing Cunningham, Kyles and William Pratcher to try to establish a rhythm. Cunningham continued to prove himself as the number one back, tallying 80 yards for the game and showing himself to be a solid pass protector as well.

Rick Stockstill's squad has a lot to review in the next two weeks as they prepare for their Sun Belt opener against Troy, which doesn't bode well for fans hoping that the Blue Raiders can pull themselves out of their funk. Stockstill is famously 0-for-5 against Troy in his tenure at Middle Tennessee and if he hopes to change that trend he's going to have to completely reinvent his squad over the next 14 days.

Until then, keep it tuned to BlueRaiderZone.com for the best discussion and analysis of Middle Tennessee football.

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