MTSU to DIAA Quarters
MTSU to DIAA Quarters
Middle Tennessee State University exacted some revenge over Florida International Saturday, beating their SIRC rivals for a place in the national DIAA quarterfinals.
MTSU had lost to FIU in the SIRC final in the fall on a late chargedown and try, losing 17-12. But the teams agreed to a rematch for a place in the national playoffs, and after realizinig that both teams would be in a 7s tournament on April 16, it was agreed that MTSU would travel to FIU this Saturday, April 2, for the winner-take-all match.
The game promised to be as tight as the previous meeting, with the teams entering halftime tied 8-8. MTSU appeared to take the lead just before the break, but the ball was ruled held up. Still tied, Middle Tennessee State felt they were on the right track.
"This game was like the previous one - we felt we were beating them between the goal lines - we just couldn't score," said MTSU Head Coach Jody Hensley. "But we had put in some new offensive options and drilled them and drilled them, and we just said we needed to trust the game plan."
About ten minutes into the second half, the Moosemen took the lead on a try, and that was a huge jolt of confidence. As the Tennessee team kept up the pressure in the breakdown, FIU started to tire in the 91-degree heat, and MTSU mowed through the final minutes to win 32-8.
The team was led by their senior leadership in Josh Pentecost (two tries), Matt Belew, and Stephen Wyatt, and got some big plays from Mason Hubbard.
"We took it to them, and once they got tired and stopped counter-rucking, we just kept going," said Hensley, who called FIU a class organization. "We had a lot of guys who were really tired, but they just sucked it up and finished it. It was a tough trip for us - 16 hours to get here and over 90 degrees. But once they took the lead in the second half and saw that the game plan was going to pay off, their confidence just went through the roof."
So MTSU is the first team to make the quarterfinals. Several other teams don't even know if they're in the Round of 16. In the DIAA Eastern Bracket, James Madison, Bowling Green, AIC, Notre Dame College, and Delaware are all in, and they await the winner of the Ivy League playoff next week to finish out the list of teams.