After a brutal non-conference schedule, MTSU opened Conference USA play with a bang on Saturday with a 24-13 win over East Division favorite Marshall at Floyd Stadium.
MTSU, which lost on the road to Michigan and Iowa and at home to Duke (all Top 25 teams), improved to 2-3 overall and 1-0 in league play.
“I am really proud of the physical and mental toughness our guys showed today,” said Blue Raiders coach Rick Stockstill, whose team improved to 2-3 overall and 1-o in league play. “Our message all week was to bring that toughness because that is what it takes to beat a team like Marshall.”
MTSU safety Jovante Moffatt intercepted a Marshall pass midway through the first quarter to set up a short field for the offense. Charon Mobley scored five plays later to put MTSU up 7-0.
Marshall (2-3, 0-1) evened the score on the next play from scrimmage with a 75-yard touchdown pass.
“We ran the ball well early in the game and that set our offense well for later,” Stockstill said.
“The running backs did their best job this week than any other weeks,” MTSU quarterback Asher O’Hara added. “They played within themselves, got out of their head and just ran the way they know how to.”
The Blue Raiders answered with a 72-yard drive that stalled in the red zone. Crews Holt gave the drive worth by hitting a 21-yard field goal to five MTSU a 10-7 lead.
MTSU scored once more before the break on an Asher O’Hara rushing touchdown from four yards away. Marshall hit two field goals in the half to pull within 17-13 at intermission.
“There was never really a time I thought we had control,” Stockstill said. “We got down inside the 10 (yard line) twice in the first half and only came away with three points. We need to correct those mistakes and make plays when we need them.”
The Blue Raiders defense was the story of the second half, forcing Marshall into three consecutive turnover on downs with a pair of interceptions. Moffatt picked his second of the afternoon in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, along with Tyshun Render grabbing a game-sealing pick in the final seconds.
“We knew that this game was big and we just played our game today,” MTSU linebacker DQ Thomas said after forcing a fumble in the first half. “Turnovers win games because we know our offense can put up points.”
Despite relinquishing 500-plus yards of offense to Marshall, MTSU finished plus-four in turnover margin for their fourth straight game in plus-territory.
“We have really been focusing on ball security in the past couple of weeks,” O’Hara said. “I just try to minimize bad passes and keep the ball in our hands.”
MTSU got creative hitting Zack Dobson over the middle on third and long to pull ahead of the Thundering Herd 24-13.
MTSU plays C-USA foe FAU on the road this Saturday.