Blue Raiders drop double OT game to WKU

Middle Tennessee fell to long-time rival Western Kentucky in a disappointing 36-33 double overtime game Thursday night. With the loss the Blue Raiders fell to 1-4 (0-2) in 2011. Western Kentucky (1-4, 1-1) notched their first victory of 2011.

As is the case most opponents, Western's Bobby Rainey gave the Middle Tennessee defense fits all night long, including the game-winning touchdown catch at the end of the second overtime. For the night, Rainey rushed for 146 yards and one touchdown on 37 carries. He also caught six passes for 57 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Surprisingly, the lone bright spot in the game came from the ground game, where William Pratcher wound up with 106 rushing yards on 16 carries (6.6 yards/ carry) and D.D. Kyles fell just four yards shy of 100. His 96 yards on 19 carries was good for a 5.1 yard average. Through the air, Blue Raider quarterback Logan Kilgore went 23-for-47 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

For the Blue Raiders, the game can be summed up using one word: sloppy. Middle Tennessee committed three turnovers, missed a field goal, had an extra point blocked, gave up a safety and allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown over the course of the game. Had the Blue Raiders been able to prevent any one of those instances from occurring they would have won the game. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.

Instead the Blue Raiders struggled in all areas for four straight quarters and two overtime periods. Kilgore started the game with a brilliant drive going 5-for-6 for 30 yards before running it in from two yards out to put Middle up 7-0. From there the Blue Raider offense would stall and finish the first half with a measly 108 total yards.

Western Kentucky scored their lone touchdown of the half late in the first quarter. The Hilltopper offense was spotted good field position after a Blue Raider personal foul aided a strong return. They made the most of the opportunity and drove to the one yard line before fullback Kadeem Jones scored the first of two touchdowns on the night.

To start the second half, the Blue Raiders seemingly changed their plan of attack and went with runs out the gate. That worked out well on their second drive of the half, as William Pratcher and D.D. Kyles combined for 75 yards on four straight rushes before Kyles found the endzone on an impressive 25 yard run. Alan Gendreau's ensuing PAT was blocked, which ended up being a crucial play in the game.

Unfortunately a fumble ended what was becoming another promising drive on the next Blue Raider possession and the third quarter went south from there. Middle Tennessee had the unfortunate luck of being stuck within their own five yard line to start multiple drives, which eventually culminated in a safety, giving WKU a 13-9 lead.

The rest of the game didn't get any prettier for Middle Tennessee. The highlight of the second half came when Middle Tennessee trailed 30-23 with just under five minutes to go in the game. The Blue Raiders found themselves at 1st and goal from the two before Kilgore was tackled for a seven yard loss on an option keeper. With Gendreau obviously not playing up to his potential, head coach Rick Stockstill opted to go for it on 4th and goal from the 8. Luckily, the Hilltopper defense lost walk-on wideout Anthony Amos and Kilgore found him over the middle to tie the game.

Middle Tennessee won the toss ahead of the first overtime period and opted to play defense. WKU approached the overtime period aggressively, opting to throw to the endzone on the first play. Luckily, it fell harmlessly to the ground. Six plays later however, Jones found the endzone for his second one-yard touchdown run of the game to put the Hilltoppers on top 30-23.

When it was their turn the Blue Raiders responded quickly. Kilgore hit Sancho McDonald on a screen pass and, after stumbling for a second, McDonald weaved his way into the endzone to send the game into the second overtime period.

Then things went south.

Middle Tennessee's inability to grind out yards on the ground cost them as they had to go to the air on 3rd and 4 from the six yard line. Kilgore just overshot the WKU defenders, but in doing so also missed McDonald in the endzone. Gendreau came on to give the Blue Raiders a 33-30 lead.

For the second straight period, Western was playing to win. Their first two plays were both pass plays that went for incompletions. On the crucial 3rd and 10, they lined up in a spread look with Rainey as the lone back lined up beside Kawaun Jakes. On an improbable draw play, Rainey fought for 10.5 tough yards and gave the Hilltoppers life again. A few plays later, he'd catch the game winner.

Stay tuned to in the coming days for more reaction and analysis of the Western Kentucky game.

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