A fast start wasn’t enough to spark Middle Tennessee to victory against FIU here Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Raiders looked like a fresh team playing just its second game in four weeks after vaulting to a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter, but FIU stormed back to stun Middle Tennessee, 38-28.
The loss overshadowed a career effort from receiver Ed Batties, who hauled in eight receptions for 110 yards – both career highs – and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Austin Grammer was 21-of-33 for 286 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions.
FIU scored a season-high 38 points turned five Blue Raider turnovers into 21 points in the comeback win.
Jeremiah Bryson led a MT ground game that accounted for 142 yards with 37 and a touchdown.
It appeared as though Middle Tennessee would run away with the game at the outset.
Middle Tennessee was dominant early when the Blue Raiders vaulted to a 21-3 lead.
After Kevin Byard forced a fumble that was recovered by Trey Wafford, Grammer connected with Batties for an 18-yard touchdown. Cody Clark’s point after provided a 7-0 lead with 5:10 remaining in the first quarter.
It would be the beginning of a big day for Batties.
FIU came back with a 43-yard field goal from Austin Taylor on its next drive to pull to within 7-3 with 3:46 remaining in the quarter.
Grammer threw his second touchdown of the quarter as Middle Tennessee answered on its next drive. Shane Tucker hauled in a pass out of the backfield and sprinted 28 yards to paydirt. Clark’s extra point was once again true and the Blue Raiders owned a 14-3 lead with 1:37 to play in the opening frame.
Everything was clicking for the Blue Raiders. The defense held the Golden Panthers to just nine yards and no first downs in the first 15 minutes.
Grammer stayed hot, finding Batties for a 37-yard score on the Blue Raiders’ first possession of the second quarter. It was Grammer’s third touchdown pass and Batties’ second scoring reception of the game and gave MT a seemingly commanding 21-3 cushion.
Suddenly, momentum shifted as FIU scored 14 unanswered points in the final 3:03 of the half to pull to within 21-17. The Golden Panthers’ momentum ran into the second half as they scored two touchdowns in the 7:36 of the third quarter to go ahead 31-21 on the strength of 28 unanswered points.
Bryson finally stopped the FIU run when he pounded in from the 10 to pull the Blue Raiders to within 31-28 to cap a quick, three-play, 45-yard scoring drive with 6:17 remaining in the quarter.
In a game where each possession became critical, FIU came right back on its next drive and capped an 11-play, 85-yard drive when Anthon Samuel rushed in from the 2 to push the advantage back to 10, 38-28.
MT will return to action when it plays host to Florida Atlantic in the final home game of the season Saturday. Kickoff is 6 p.m.