Vanderbilt Commodores to collide with surging Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee State University destroyed the Alabama A&M Bulldogs last Saturday at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro for its season opener. Final score, 55-0. The same can’t be said for Vanderbilt. Elliott Fry kicked a career long 55-yard field goal, nailing it with 35 seconds left for the South Carolina Gamecocks, to shock the Commodores in its season opener, as they rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Vandy 13-10 last Thursday night in Will Muschamp’s debut as head coach. This is the Gamecocks’ eighth straight victory over Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt is now 0-3 in season openers under coach Derek Mason, although his troops did manage to score an offensive touchdown in the game. However, Tommy Openshaw’s missed 45-yard field goal with over three minutes left was the dagger. “The bottom line is we didn’t win this game. Now we have to get to next week and play MTSU,” said Mason.

The Commodores picked up where they left off from last season. The offense struggling to move the ball and the defense playing well, keeping them in the game. Despite getting their hands on lots of passes defensively, they failed to pick one off. They did, however, force two fumbles, but couldn’t get off the field in the second half.

Kyle Shurmur was the starter for the Commodores, but Mason brought in Wade Freebeck for the drive after the Commodores went up 10-0 in the first half. Freebeck was in for two consecutive drives, managing just one yard over six plays. Mason had fans puzzled over the switch.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, the Blue Raiders’defense looked solid as ever, posting its first shutout since 2013. New offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had quite the re-debut in his first game back with the Blue Raiders since 2009. MTSU’s offense racked up 681 total yards and seven touchdowns. The Blue Raiders were perfect in the red zone in the first half, scoring on all four drives. Sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill had a record-breaking performance. The Murfreesboro native and reigning Conference USA Freshman of the Year broke Logan Kilgore’s consecutive completion record in the second quarter. Kilgore’s record was 19. Stockstill completed 22, coming close to breaking the national record of 26 by former East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. Stockstill finished 30-of-36 for 329 yards, five touchdowns and an interception.

I’Tavius Mathers played in his first college football game since transferring from Ole Miss. Mathers scored MTSU’s first touchdown of the season on a 32-yard run, finishing with 62 yards on seven carries.

Last year, Vandy found a way out of no way to knock off the Blue Raiders, in Murfreesboro, on homecoming. MTSU is itching for payback. Will MTSU’s offense dominate or will Vandy’s defense stand up? How will Vandy score? The showdown between these two in-state rivals at Vanderbilt Stadium this Saturday afternoon should be epic.