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I am quite sure when the schedule-makers put UTSA in Murfreesboro as the CBSSN game for CUSA this week, no one expected a huge game. After Middle beat up on Miami, it turned into the game of the week. Middle has been impressive of late, and UTSA are the defending league champions. The stage was set, and Murfreesboro managed a mediocre crowd for it. They missed an entertaining game. I fully admit that I am grading Middle on a gigantic curve, and in other circumstances would be much more critical, but Rick Stockstill knows what he is doing. He has kept MTSU a decent program in two different leagues across two different decades. He manages to pull out a decent competitive program every five or so years no matter how many people show up to watch him do so.
Chase Cunningham threw for 300 yards, and showed some gutsy plays. He isn’t quite Bailey Zappe, but showed a knack for making creative throws, and also showed toughness in the face of on-rushing defensive lineman bearing down on him. Middle’s defense came up big with three interceptions against the league’s best all-around QB in Frank Harris. They pulled themselves to within three after that spectacular pick-six early in the fourth. It was a fantastically entertaining game for a Friday night on CBSSN. Middle’s stands were empty, by the future is not.
Middle faces UAB down the road, and WKU back home – both programs capable of wining this league – and if the last two weeks were any indication of the quality on this team, there is every reason to believe a split of those is possible. After that? Well, the rest of the schedule is not a murderer’s row of talent. Middle can score, and they have an opportunistic defense. UTSA’s collection of wide receivers are the best in the league and the Blue Raiders nearly did enough. Keep all of this up and they might earn another shot at the Runners.
The game was different but the vibe was very similar to Bowling Green 2021, in which Zappe and company played UTSA close in a championship game preview.
Meanwhile, UTSA looked shaky for another week. The turnovers are troublesome, and the heavy reliance on Harris is something we wondered about in pre-season. He is good enough to carry the team, but even superheroes have off days. He threw three interceptions in this one, and that nearly set up Middle for a tide-changing comeback. The Runner defense is talented, and there are playmakers all throughout the roster that it ultimately did not matter. It is concerning, however. UTSA played close games last season and were fortunate in the right spots. Middle is suddenly a challenger and Rice might solid. The league title race is really a three-team chase between UAB, this Runner team, and WKU. Staying clean and saving the firepower for the matchups between these teams is the name of the game, right now. Next up is WKU in San Antonio in a title-game rematch. WKU will leave much less room for error.