Hilltoppers drop fifth straight in loss to MTSU

Redshirt senior quarterback Drew Eckels throws a pass in WKU’s 29-10 loss to Middle Tennessee State. Eckels threw for 195 yards in the loss. 

Matt Stahl

WKU football suffered yet another disappointing defeat at the hands of Middle Tennessee State, falling 29-10 to the Blue Raiders to fall to 1-8 on the season.

“We had opportunities,” head coach Mike Sanford said after the game. “We really did. We had opportunities and that’s the number one thing is we’ve got to seize them. We got to take care of those.”

MTSU started with the ball and opened the scoring almost immediately, with redshirt senior quarterback Brent Stockstill finding junior wide receiver Ty Lee for a 43-yard score.

Redshirt senior quarterback Drew Eckels saw his first action since Week 2 against Maine. He started by marching down the field on a drive anchored by his own 21-yard rush, but the drive was stopped when the Blue Raiders knocked away a pass intended for sophomore receiver Jacquez Sloan on fourth down at their own 28.

On their next drive, which started out their own 11, Eckels found Sloan for a 53-yard pass to move into Blue Raider territory. Several plays later, redshirt junior kicker Alex Rinella put the Hilltoppers on the board with a 40-yard field goal.

Later in the quarter, the Blue Raiders took over at their own 20 after a WKU three-and-out. Redshirt freshman running back Chaton Mobley took the ball 60 yards to the WKU 20 and MTSU was able to add a field goal to make the score 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, after a series of stagnant drives from both teams the Blue Raiders were able to extend their lead on a 5-yard shovel pass from Stockstill to freshman wide receiver Zack Dobson.

The Blue Raiders were able to add another field goal with five seconds left in the half to make the score 20-3. The drive was aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on redshirt junior linebacker Eli Brown.

The Hilltopper offense came out hot to begin the third quarter, driving in to MTSU territory, before freshman running back Gino Appleberry fumbled and the Blue Raiders recovered at their own 22. On the ensuing drive, the Blue Raiders added another field goal to extend their lead to 20.

The Hilltoppers got their first touchdown of the game late in the third when redshirt sophomore Steven Duncan, who replaced an injured Eckels, hit redshirt junior receiver Lucky Jackson with a 46-yard bomb to make it 23-10.

“It’s unfortunate but it’s definitely something that we can play through and deal with like we have,” Jackson said of the quarterback injuries the Hilltoppers have faced. “The chemistry isn’t always there but we’ve still got to continue to come out there and play great for our quarterbacks.”

After another MTSU field goal, Duncan returned to the field and did everything that he could to lead the team to another score, but dropped passes and a blocked field goal left the Hilltoppers empty handed.

“You kick a field goal there, two touchdowns win the game,” Sanford said of the decision to try a field goal down 16 points. “We’re in a position to go get points, we’ve got to go get points, we’ve got to operate and execute that play.”

The Blue Raiders added another field goal, redshirt sophomore kicker Crews Holt’s fifth of the game, to make the final score 29-10

WKU will be back in action next Saturday in Boca Raton, Florida, where the Hilltoppers will take on Florida Atlantic.

Reporter Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mattstahl97.