MTSU hammers UConn 44-13 for third win

MTSU’s Martell Pettaway fights for yardage at UConn Friday night. MTSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — MTSU dominated in the trenches on the road, riding a balanced offensive performance and 11 tackles for loss to a 44-13 victory over UConn at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium Friday night.

The Blue Raiders improved to 3-4 while UConn dropped to 1-8.

“I’m really proud of our guys. I thought it was a great team effort tonight,” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. “I thought we play complimentary football. It’s hard to win on the road. I’m proud of how we fought and competed tonight.”

The Blue Raiders opened the scoring after recovering a Husky fumble in UConn territory. Zeke Rankin chipped in a 20-yard field goal to give MTSU a 3-0 lead with 2:46 to go in the first quarter.

Jimmy Marshall kept the good vibes going out of the quarter break, boxing out the Husky defensive back for a 14-yard touchdown catch just four seconds into the second quarter. Rankin’s PAT was good to give MTSU a 10-0 lead.

After UConn responded with two drives to tie the game, the Blue Raiders put together a methodical, seven play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a 25-yard touchdown catch to Izaiah Gathings from Chase Cunningham. The wideout caught a quick screen on the edge and made his man miss for the easy six points.

After a strong defensive stop on the ensuing drive, the Blue Raiders once again drove down the field for the score, with Cunningham finding Marshall out of the slot. The signal caller was forced to his right by the pressure but kept his cool as Marshall streaked open across the back corner to give MTSU a 24-10 lead.

“I’m super fortunate to have the talent that I throw to,” Cunningham said. “I know what Jimmy is going to give me week. I know he’s going to make plays. I’ve got all the confidence in all my guys.”

The Huskies got a last second field goal at the end of the second quarter to cut the Blue Raiders’ lead to 24-13 at halftime.

On the first drive of the second half, Rankin expanded the Blue Raider’s lead with a 32-yard field goal for a 27-13 advantage.

The Blue Raiders expanded the lead late in the third quarter with another grind-it-out drive, going 71 yards in 12 plays, capped off by Martell Pettaway’s 1-yard touchdown run. Pettaway rushed for 31 yards on the drive, while Cunningham rushed for 16 yards and Mobley 13 yards on the drive.

Quincy Riley snared his third interception of the season late in the third, hauling in the tip drill off the hands of Reed Blankenship and returning it 26 yards to the MTSU 44, ensuring the Huskies would not put points on the board in the third quarter.

MTSU continued its second-half dominance in the fourth quarter, with Cunningham finding Jarrin Pierce for the quarterback’s fourth touchdown pass of the evening. The senior wideout went out and got the ball in the left side of the end zone for a nice full extension catch to give MTSU a 41-13 lead.

Cunningham finished with 25 completions on 36 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns. Rankin booted through his third field goal of the evening to stretch MTSU’s lead to 44-13, which would prove to be the final margin of the game.