Middle Tennessee survived a late rally to get by Arkansas State 35-30. Here are five things that matter.
2017 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee 35, Arkansas State 30
5. Arkansas State and clock management
Down five starting on its own nine with 1:15 to play, driving the length of the field for the win wasn’t out of the question for a high-powered Arkansas State team. But veteran QB Justice Hansen made big mistake after big mistake.
With no time outs left, he was hit with a sack when he had time to get rid of the ball. After a few compilations, the Red Wolves got out to their own 42, but Hansen took another sack. got up slowly, and tick, tick, tick … and he took another sack to end the game. Which ended a strange game when …
4. Arkansas State didn’t play like itself
That wasn’t the normal, high-powered Arkansas State fun show that played with so much confidence and so many big plays throughout the season. It finished with 462 yards of total offense, Hansen threw for 337 yards and three scores, and there were a few moments when the offense worked, but – especially when combined with the loss to Troy – this was a clunker end to a strong season. This team had way too much talent on both side of the ball to finish off like this.
But enough about the losers …
3. This was a huge performance for the Stockstills
Middle Tennessee has been great under Rick Stockstill, but his teams usually stink it up in the bowl season. The Blue Raiders were 1-5 in the post-season fun games with the lone win coming in the 2009 New Orleans Bowl, and then the Blue Raiders got rim-rocked in the next four bowls. But his team came through, it turns into a winning season for the program, and after a rocky run, everything ends well.
Part of the problem was the injury to star QB Brent Stockstill – Rick’s son. He threw three picks against Arkansas State, and he wasn’t always sharp, but he threw for 232 yards and two scores. However, give this game to …
2. The Middle Tennessee defense.
Linebacker Darius Harris led the was with 12 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble, but he was hardly alone on a team that cranked up the pressure all night long.
The Blue Raiders came up with six sacks – with the ones on the final drive becoming killers – an interception and two big fumble recoveries. The D was okay throughout the year, but against the great ASU offense, it was fantastic.
1. Your Raycom Media Camellia Bowl delivered – again
The reputation is growing.
In the first three years, the bowl game was decided by a grand total of ten points with the inaugural game – a Bowling Green 33-28 win over South Alabama – a relative blowout.
35-30 with the eventual loser with a shot to pull out the win in the final seconds? That’s 4-for-4 in phenomenal games. It was fun, there were big moments, and it came down to the end.
That’s exactly what you want on a bowl played on the opening day of the post-season.