Following the second-best offensive performance in school history on the season’s opening weekend, Tech went on the road on Sept. 10 to face the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Jackets hit the ground running, scoring on their first four possessions and cruising to a 49-21 win.
The Jackets had 596 yards of offense, with 382 coming on the ground and 214 through the air. Tech held their ranking as the nation’s leader in pass efficiency, averaging 21.4 yards per pass attempt against the Blue Raiders. The defense also limited MTSU’s offense, allowing 342 yards in the contest and only seven points through three quarters.
Head Coach Paul Johnson emphasized improving ball security through the week leading up to the game, and Tech reduced its fumbling from six times the previous week to twice on the road.
The Jackets received the ball to kick off the game and started off as quickly as they did the previous week against Western Carolina. Redshirt freshman A-back Tony Zenon lined up at the B-back position and ran a deep route on the first play of the game, and redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington hit Zenon in stride for a 73-yard pass down the sideline for a touchdown. It was the second time in two games that the Jackets scored on their first offensive play from scrimmage.
“It was something we saw on film, and we knew [Zenon] was going to be matched up on a linebacker,” Johnson said.
After forcing a quick punt by the Blue Raiders, the Jackets began their second drive from their own two yard line. Tech exclusively ran the ball and had its longest drive of the season, a 17-play drive that lasted 9:25 and ended in a two-yard keeper by Washington for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
MTSU responded with a 31-yard drive to the Tech 29-yard line, but missed a 46-yard field goal attempt. Tech capitalized on the mistake, and responded with a deep 71-yard pass from Washington to junior wide receiver Stephen Hill for a touchdown.
“Stephen has really come along really nicely. He’s stepping up and making big plays when we need them,” Washington said.
The Blue Raiders returned the ensuing kickoff for 38 yards and started off at their own 44. MTSU, led by quarterback Logan Kilgore, drove 25 yards to the Tech 31. On a third-and-long play, Kilgore threw a pass behind his receiver and sophomore safety Isaiah Johnson intercepted the pass at the Tech 10.
The Jackets capitalized on the turnover and capped off their first-half scoring with a seven-play, 90-yard touchdown drive ending in a seven-yard rush by Washington.
The Blue Raiders responded before the half was over, with a 68-yard drive of their own, ending in a 15-yard run by D.D. Kyles, to bring the score to 28-7 at halftime.
MTSU received the ball to start the second half but was forced off the field after a quick three-and-out. The Blue Raiders kicked a 54-yard punt to the Tech 15, where Washington led the first Tech drive of the second half.
Redshirt sophomore B-back David Sims carried the ball five times for 34 yards during an 85-yard touchdown drive that ended on a two-yard run by junior A-back Orwin Smith and brought the score to 35-7 in Tech’s favor.
The Jackets forced another punt by the Blue Raiders, and redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days took over under center for the remainder of the game with 5:40 left in the third quarter. Days led the offense to a score, rushing for 55 yards on a 63-yard drive to end the third quarter. The Jackets had their biggest lead of the day with the score at 42-7.
The Blue Raiders responded in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble by redshirt freshman B-back Charles Perkins at the Tech 38. MTSU then executed a trick play for 27 yards before punching the ball in for their second touchdown of the game with 12:57 left.
Days then came out to lead the Jackets on their last touchdown drive of the day. The Tech offense marched down the field, trying to use up as much clock as possible en route to a 16 play, 9:41 touchdown drive. Days and Zenon accounted for 63 of the 73 yards on the drive, and they converted two third downs and a fourth down.
The Blue Raiders took their last drive with 3:16 left on the clock and used their hurry-up offense to quickly score a touchdown with 53 seconds left in the game. Middle Tennessee kicked an onside kick, but could not recover the kick. Tech ran three last plays to finish the game and set the final score at 49-21. The Jackets finished with 596 yards of offense.
The Jackets return home to face the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12:30 P.M.