Middle Tennessee held the conference leader in total offense to seven points and scored 24 on the number one defense in the Sun Belt to pick up its second straight victory on Saturday.
The Blue Raiders held Arkansas State to a season-low 138 yards of total offense. This is the same Indians offense that rolled up 681 total yards just last week. Reigning Sun Belt Player of the Week Corey Leonard is unlikely to be a repeat winner of the award as he finished 9-of-19 passing with three interceptions.
“I thought we dominated the game,” Blue Raider head coach Rick Stockstill said. “What’s interesting is we didn’t play our best and we still came out on top. We had some mistakes and penalties but overall I feel that we really controlled the game.”
The Indians came into this game ranked 14th in the nation in rushing offense. They were only able to add 22 yards to their season total on this day as the Blue Raider defense dominated the ASU offensive line.
Middle Tennessee (3-5, 2-1) set a school record with nine sacks on the day. That’s one better than the previous record that dated back to 2001.
“Today’s performance is really a credit to our entire defensive coaching staff,” Stockstill said. “It all goes back to how we practice and how hard we prepare each week. Our players and coaches work real hard and it’s showing out on the field.”
The offense turned in another fine performance led by Taron Henry. Henry had three catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown came from Dwight Dasher in the first quarter and his second came from Joe Craddock in the second quarter for what turned out to be the final score of the game.
“We were able to handle their blitz which allowed for some receivers to be open down the middle,” Stockstill said. “We challenged all of our receivers to step up and play big today and they did. Taron was able to find some open spaces and both quarterbacks delivered him some good passes.”
Craddock, who missed the last four games due to injury, saw action in this game early and often. He lined up as a receiver and a quarterback throughout the game and was critical on a few reverse plays that gained the Blue Raider offense several yards each time.
“Joe allows us to do many different things on offense,” Stockstill stated. “We ran him at quarterback and receiver and he threw the ball from both positions. He was also in on some trick plays and reverses. He gives us more options and we’re glad he’s healthy.”
The quarterback tandem proved to be effective against the Indians. Dasher finished the day with 118 yards passing, 96 yards rushing, and a passing touchdown. Craddock threw only four passes, completing two, including the 52-yard strike to Henry for a score.
“I think it’s important that we use both quarterbacks if they’re both healthy,” Stockstill said. “Dwight’s been hurt here and there the past few games so we need Joe to be ready. I think having both of them allows our offense to be more creative and harder to stop.”
The win keeps Middle Tennessee in the hunt for another Sun Belt Conference championship. The Blue Raiders will look to pick up another conference victory next week at North Texas.