MTSU junior quarterback Logan Kilgore and the MTSU offense made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter but fell short.
The start of MTSU’s 2012 football season began as a carbon copy of the end of the 2011 campaign.
The Blue Raider dropped its sixth consecutive season opener and its seventh game in a row Aug. 30, by a score of 27-21 to McNeese State in front of a crowd of 18,690 at Floyd Stadium.
“I told them after the game, I believe in them, and there is a lot of character on this team,” MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill said after the loss. “We just played inconsistently.”
The Blue Raiders were down 24-6 with seven minutes left in the game. The offense made a furious comeback, but came up short.
MTSU junior quarterback Logan Kilgore found Anthony Amos in the corner of the end zone with 6:58 left. Kilgore added the 2-point conversion, when he threw it up from grabs and Jordan Parker made a unbelievable catch to make the score 24-14.
McNeese responded with a Josh Lewis 33-yard field goal with 5:21 left to make the score 27-14. MTSU returned the favor when Reggie Whatley took the kickoff 85 yards to the McNeese 15. On the next play, Kilgore found Kyle Griswould for a 15-yard score to cut the Cowboy lead to six, 27-21 with 5:01 left.
The Blue Raider defense forced a Cowboy punt on the next possession, but it was downed at the Blue Raider 2-yard line with six seconds left in the game. On the final play of the game, MTSU got the ball all the way to the 50 with lateral passes, but the ball was fumbled and the game ended.
Kilgore was pleased with the way his teammates never gave up.
“It was just executing the game plan,” Kilgore said after the game. “We did not do anything different; we just started to get some breaks our way. We wanted a good opponent and that’s what we got.”
The Blue Raiders opening possession started off well as Kenneth Gilstrap returned the opening kickoff 57 yards to the Cowboy 37.
MTSU offense, led by quarterback Logan Kilgore, drove the ball down to the McNeese 3-yardline, but Blue Raider Benny Cunningham was dropped in the backfield on second down. New MTSU placekicker Carlos Lopez kicked a 20-yard field goal to open the scoring 3-0 with 12:40 left in the opening quarter.
Lopez added another field goal from 28 yards out to extend the Blue Raider lead to 6-0 with 14:53 left in the first half.
However, the second quarter belonged to the McNeese offense.
Backup Cowboy quarterback Tyler Bolfing found Josh Jordan for a 2-yard score and Lewis added the extra point to give the Cowboys a 7-6 lead.
After missing a few plays because of injury, McNeese starter Cody Stroud added a touchdown connection of his own, when he found Champlain from 8 yards out with only 33 seconds remaining in the half. The Blue Raiders were down 14-6 at the half.
During the first half, Blue Raider running back Benny Cunningham suffered a shoulder injury and missed the rest of the half.
Fellow running back and LSU transfer Drayton Calhoun also injured his shoulder, and sat out for some time, but came back in later. Stockstill said in the postgame press conference, both of their status are unknown for next week.
The second half started off the same for the Cowboys as the offense led by an experienced line that had a combined 85 starts between them coming into the season. McNeese drove the ball 55 yards in eight plays and Jones kicked his second field goal from 46 yards to extend the Cowboy advantage to 17-6.
On MTSU’s first possession of the second half, Kilgore was picked off by MSU cornerback Guy Morgan at the Cowboy 33. However, the MTSU held them off the scoreboard.
Late in the third quarter, the Blue Raider held to the McNeese to its first three-and-out series, but on the ensueing punt, the ball bounced off a MTSU player. The Cowboys recovered it at the Blue Raider 49. Five plays later, Stroud scored on a one-yard keeper with 1:20 remaining in the third and made the score 24-6 in favor of the Cowboys.
Next Saturday, the Blue Raiders start up Sun Belt play against Florida Atlantic at Floyd Stadium. That was the last team MTSU defeated before the current seven game losing streak. Now, the team looks to get back on track and contend for a SBC title.
“We got to come and play, not at the end of the game, or at the middle of the game.” MTSU defensive end Omar McLendon said. “We got to come out at the beginning of the game. We got to come out and play the whole 60 minutes.”