MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee State strung together an impressive performance to stifle Savannah State 61-7 in the Raiders’ 100th season-opener at Floyd Stadium on Saturday.
The Raiders (1-0) produced 519 yards of offense and limited the Tigers on defense to 219 yards. The Raiders’ 61 points and 54-point margin was the largest ever in a season-opener. The previous record occurred in 1954 when MT put up 52 against Stewart Air Force Base.
Despite rainy conditions throughout the game, the Raiders jumped out early marching down the field 75 yards to take a 6-0 lead. MT added 28 more points in the first half to take a 34-0 lead.
Redshirt junior Austin Grammer had a stellar debut as starter, completing 15-of-17 passes for 88.2 percent, which matched the second-best in school history. Grammer threw passes of 50 and 47 yards, respectively. The Tuscaloosa, Ala. native finished with 250 yards and a touchdown.
MT used its strong corps of receivers as five different players had 30-plus yards. Marcus Henry totaled 84 yards, including a 47-yard catch from Grammer. Ed’Marques Batties caught four passes for 42 yards. Junior tailback Jordan Parker had the longest catch of the day in the first quarter, reeling in a 50-yard strike from Grammer.
The Raiders had nine different backs tote the pigskin, netting 228 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Jeremiah Bryson and Shane Tucker posted two touchdowns each. Reggie Whatley added 65 yards, while Tony Rowland connected on 63.
Defensively, the Raiders forced two fumbles and picked up an interception. Trey Wafford returned a 20-yard fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter. In the first half, Kevin Byard picked up his 10th career interception, which tied him for seventh in program history.
Linebacker Quay Watt led the Blue Raider defense with seven stops. Leighton Gasque and Shaquille Huff each added a sack, while T.T. Barber posted two tackles-for-loss.
On the opening drive, sophomore Shane Tucker barreled through for a 13-yard touchdown to give MT a six-point edge. The Raiders subsequently missed the two-point conversion. Grammer found Parker for a 50-yard strike on the Blue Raiders second drive of the day. It would set up a five-yard touchdown pass from Grammer to Tucker. Erdely ran in the third touchdown of the day with a three-yard scamper up the middle, giving MT a 20-point edge.
In the third quarter, the Raiders blocked their 49th kick in the Rick Stockstill era when Raynard Felton rejected a field goal. It marked the first blocked field goal since 2012 against FIU. Batties showed his versatility with a 61-yard punt return in the third quarter, stretching MT’s edge to 47-0.
Middle Tennessee hits the road next week for a 2:30 p.m. contest. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.