There was a point in the first quarter where Middle Tennessee State and Troy were tied.
That point in time did not last long.
Troy scored 40 consecutive points over the next three quarters to pull away and hand MTSU a 47-14 loss on Saturday in a game that was televised on ESPN.
The offensive woes continued for MTSU (0-2) after struggling against Army two weeks ago. The Blue Raiders turned the ball over three times and had fewer than 250 yards of total offense against Troy (1-0).
“There’s not a whole lot of positives to talk about,” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said after the game. “They handed it to us pretty good. You can’t really say that we did anything good offensively, and we’re just not a very good offensive football team right now.
“We haven’t been able to score these last two games, and in this day in age, you have to score, and if you don’t, you’re not going to win games. We just need to play better in all phases.”
Here are some takeaways from the game:
Where is the running game and when will it show up?
Two weeks after their backs accounted for 57 yards on 12 carries, it looked like the Blue Raiders completely forgot about their running backs and the run game against Troy.
Of their 28 carries, quarterback Asher O’Hara accounted for 14. MTSU rushed for 87 yards with O’Hara accounting for 45 of those.
Similar to last season where no backs rushed for more than 300 yards for the season, MTSU has yet to establish any sense of identity with its running backs.
“I think that if we can start throwing the ball better, I think that’ll help,” Stockstill said. “Right now people aren’t threatened by our passing attack therefore they know they can play another man in the box. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things that are really making us struggle there.
“It’s not a very pretty sight watching our team right now.”
MTSU uses 3 quarterbacks
While he was better statistically against Troy than he was against Army, O’Hara was eventually pulled for Chase Cunningham late in the second quarter. However, things didn’t go much better for Cunningham.
He was sacked for a safety on his first drive and then threw back-to-back interceptions to open the second half before he was also pulled and O’Hara was put back in.
“I just need to be a lot better,” O’Hara said. “Offenses run through the quarterback, and I need to be a better point guard and get the ball where it needs to go. If we don’t start off good, then it puts a lot of pressure on everyone else, and that ultimately comes back to me and how I play.
“I need to play better and that’s obvious.”
Mike DiLiello was put in for O’Hara in the fourth quarter. He finished 3-of-4 for 38 yards and connected with Jaylin Lane for a 28-yard touchdown.
The defense can’t catch a break
Whether it was the offense not sustaining drives or defensive touchdowns being called back, the Blue Raiders defense couldn’t catch a break.
In the first quarter, Greg Grate returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown only to have it called back because MTSU had too many men on the field. In the third quarter, DQ Thomas had an interception returned for a touchdown only to have it called back because of a penalty.
While those were backbreakers and the Blue Raiders did force two Troy turnovers, the defense was far from perfect.
Troy put up 496 yards of total offense. The Trojans converted on 13 of their 18 third-down attempts, ran 31 more plays than MTSU and held possession for 35:45.
A historically bad two-game start
It’s been a long time since MTSU had a start to the season as bad as this one.
The Blue Raiders have been outscored 89-14. MTSU hasn’t had a two-game stretch to open the season as bad since 2000. That year the Blue Raiders opened with a 35-6 loss to Illinois followed up by a 55-0 loss to Florida.
MTSU has been outgained 864-425 and turned the ball over seven times.
Blue Raiders schedule UTSA for Friday night meeting
Following the game, MTSU announced that instead of having a bye week, the Blue Raiders will instead travel to Texas-San Antonio for a Friday night game.
This will be the third meeting between the schools. MTSU won the 2015 meeting 42-7 but lost 45-25 in 2016.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
Reach Joe Spears at [email protected] or 731-343-4923. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @joe_spears7.