MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – A Christian Stewart touchdown rush gave BYU football a 27-7 victory against Middle Tennessee Saturday, snapping a four-game losing streak.
“It’s a long way to come to play a football game, however our team came with nice resolve,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “The running game took over, gave us some more balance. The defense played a wonderful game. It was fun to see.”
Stewart completed a 33-yard pass to Kurt Henderson to put the ball on the 1-yard line, giving himself the chance to run in on the next play for the final score and his first win as a starting quarterback.
The win put the Cougars (5-4) one game away from bowl eligibility.
Stewart finished with 316 passing yards, his second most as a Cougar. He passed to 10 players during the game.
The Cougars started their first drive of the second half with 12:44 on the clock after Teu Kautai sacked Grammer, caused a fumble and forced Middle Tennessee to punt. A series of short plays put BYU on the 19-yard line. Scrambling, Stewart launched the ball to Jordan Leslie who stumbled into the end zone to break the tie and put BYU back in the lead 14-7.
Williams made his longest catch of the season on BYU’s next scoring drive, but went down after a hit to the legs with a knee strain. The 28-yard catch set up the Cougars to score on a 2-yard Paul Lasike rush in the final minute of the third quarter. BYU led 21-7 going into the fourth quarter.
The BYU defense held Middle Tennessee scoreless with only 35 offensive yards in the third quarter, while the Cougar offense tallied 163 yards.
Jordan Preator opened the final quarter picking off a deep throw from Grammer. When the Cougars couldn’t capitalize, punter Scott Arellano pinned the Blue Raiders on the 13-yard line with a career-long 81-yard punt, the longest in BYU history.
"I love standing in the end zone and just going after it," Arellano said. "I don't have to think about anything. I knew the wind was going that way, so I knew it was a good opportunity. I just hoped that guy wouldn't catch it, and he didn't."
BYU converted a 4th-and-1 situation on the opening drive of the game as Stewart rushed for 5 yards to the BYU 45. Stewart and Colby Pearson put BYU on the board first on a 37-yard touchdown reception with 12:36 left in the first quarter. The touchdown reception was Pearson’s third of his career and the team’s third-longest scoring play of the year.
Defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile picked off a pass attempt from Middle Tennessee quarterback Austin Grammer with 5:12 in the first, but the offense wasn’t able to score off the turnover.
A BYU fumble with six minutes left in the second quarter set up Middle Tennessee on its 40-yard line. The Blue Raiders marched down the field, scoring on a 22-yard catch to tie the score 7-7 with four minutes until halftime.
BYU has a bye week before hosting UNLV Nov. 15.
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