MTSU pulls away from TSU 45-26 late in home opener

MTSU's Reed Blankenship pulls in one of his two interceptions in the end one against TSU on Saturday night at Floyd Stadium. MTSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

MTSU overcame a slow start with a big second half to earn its first win of the season over Tennessee State 45-26 Saturday night at Floyd Stadium.

It was the first time since the two old rivals had played when the Blue Raiders opened their new stadium with a 28-27 victory in 1998.

MTSU's Asher O’Hara became the first quarterback with 367 passing yards and 103 rushing yards in a single game, all career-highs. The redshirt sophomore threw a career-high four touchdowns.

“(O’Hara) does a great job of keeping the play alive with his feet and he showed that tonight,” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. “I am happy for the win. It was a game I thought we had control of but could never get the space to be comfortable.”

MTSU felt that pressure early when TSU scored in the shadow of their own goalpost with a 96-yard screen pass early in the first quarter.

Reed Blankenship got his hand on the PAT to hold a 6-0 deficit. Blankenship flashed his abilities with a pair of first-half interceptions, both in the end zone.

“I just happened to see certain formations from film and had an idea where the ball was going (on my two interceptions),” Blankenship said. “(The defense) did not play a complete game.

(TSU) is a good team and they hit us in the mouth early. Our focus is to regroup and play better next week.”

MTSU found some rhythm to close out the half into the second quarter with a 30-yard Crews Holt field goal, and O’Hara had a 80-touchdown hookup with DJ England-Chisolm for a 10-6 halftime lead.

In the third, O’Hara extended a play and hit a streaking Ty Lee in the back of the end zone for a 17-6 lead. Lee moved into second in school history with his 22nd receiving touchdown. The senior trails Richie James by just one score for the record.

TSU reached pay dirt with another big play, this one from 60 yards on another screen to narrow their deficit. MTSU answered quickly with O’Hara’s third touchdown pass to Jarrin Pierce from 30 yards to lead 24-13.

With one minute left in the third, TSU grabbed an interception in Blue Raider territory to set up a touchdown to pull within 24-19.

Enter running back Chaton Mobley.

The redshirt-sophomore came alive in the fourth quarter with 103 yards on eight carries and two scores to ice the game for the Blue Raiders.

“I was given a few more touches (in the fourth quarter) and I just made the most out of my opportunities,” Mobley said.

O’Hara’s fourth score was sandwiched between the Mobley touchdowns. The QB scrambled again to hit a wide open CJ Windham to secure his first win as a starter on a career night.

“I believe the most important thing from tonight was that we won and we are a happy bunch in the locker room,” O’Hara said. “I just play with the confidence to make any throw I think I can make.”

MTSU hosts ACC opponent Duke Saturday in in the annual Black Out game at Floyd Stadium.

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