MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - ULM's strong offensive attack combined with some missed Blue Raider opportunities lifted the Warhawks past Middle Tennessee 31-17 at Homecoming on Saturday afternoon.
The Warhawks (3-2, 1-0 Sun Belt) used 500 offensive yards, while holding the Raiders (3-2, 1-1 SBC) to 307. Despite trailing 24-3 early in the third, Middle Tennessee fought back to a 31-17 deficit. However, an interception in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for ULM.
ULM controlled the time of possession, nearly doubling the Blue Raiders with 39:54 minutes compared to 20:06. The Raiders lost the crucial turnover battle, giving up two fumbles and an interception compared to just one Warhawk interception.
Quarterback Logan Kilgore threw 23-of-34 for 238 yards and one interception. Anthony Amos led all Raider receivers with seven caches and 96 yards, including a 37-yard grab in the fourth quarter.
Senior Benny Cunningham totaled 62 rushing yards on 14 attempts. The Nashville native registered two touchdowns, making it nine touchdowns in the last 10 games for the tailback.
Defensively, Craig Allen led the Raiders with a career-best 15 tackles. The senior bested his previous high of 10 last set against Georgia Tech a week ago. Redshirt freshman Kevin Byard also reached double-digit tackles with 10 solos and an assist.
Early in the first quarter, Roderic Blount's first career interception gave life to the MT offense. The Raiders were stopped short of a touchdown, but senior Carlos Lopez knocked a season-long 44-yard field goal to give Middle Tennessee a 3-0 edge with 8:36 left in the period.
On the next ULM possession, tailback Jyruss Edwards barreled down the Blue Raider interior line to score a 16-yard touchdown. The play capped off an eight play, 71 yard drives in 3:31.
As the Raiders were driving, MT fumbled at the ULM 28 and turned the ball back over to the 'Hawks. ULM's Justin Manton capitalized with a 32-yard field goal to give the Warhawks a 10-3 lead with 11:41 left in the second quarter.
The Warhawks again continued with big plays as Browning fired a 47 yard pass to Je' Ronn Hamm. Just a few plays later, Hamm caught a three-yard pass to give ULM a comfortable 17-3 lead at halftime.
In the first half, Browning completed 16 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown. Middle Tennessee was held to just 127 offensive yards in the first half and 29 in the rushing attack. Kilgore was 10-of-17 for 98 yards, while Cunningham had 24 yards on five carries.
A time consuming drive to start the third quarter helped ULM manage a 75-yard drive to take a 24-3 lead.
A response of urgency was needed for MT and the Raiders used Cunningham's eight yard touchdown run at 5:29 to narrow their deficit to 24-10.
Middle Tennessee's momentum was short-lived when a fumble at the ULM 31 gave the Warhawks life. Browning threw a 28-yard pass to Tavarese Mayes on a fourth and seven. Just two plays later, Donald rushed up the gut, giving the Hawks a 31-10 lead in the third quarter.
The Raiders again answered ULM as Cunningham added his second touchdown, cutting the Hawks lead to 14, 31-17. An offensive opportunity fell apart for the Blue Raiders after ULM's Isaiah Newsome snatched an interception in the end zone with 8:25 left in the contest. From there, the Warhawks used effective plays to run out the clock en route to their Sun Belt opening victory.
Middle Tennessee hits the road for a two game swing starting next week at FIU. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. Central in Miami, Fla.