MTSU, Memphis both post impressive victories

By Ron Wynn
Nashville Voice

Middle Tennessee State University took a major step forward in asserting leadership in Conference USA’s East Division last Friday, while the University of Memphis bounced back from a crushing road defeat to blow out an overmatched team Saturday.

The University of Tennessee had an off week, one they definitely needed as they recoup from consecutive blowout losses to Florida and Georgia.

The Blue Raiders have seldom had good luck against Marshall either at home or away, but 24 straight second-half points ended years of frustration for them in Huntington as they defeated the Thundering Herd 34-24. The victory left them undefeated in C-USA play at 2-0 (3-2 overall), and was their first road win over Marshall in five tries.

“We won this game with guts and toughness,” MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill told the Murfreesboro Daily New Journal. “We never flinched, we kept battling the whole game and we beat a really good football team here tonight.”

They also continued a recent pattern of making big gambles. This time MTSU went for it on fourth down and a toss play to running back Tavares Thomas proved critical as they took a 24-17 lead and used that as a catalyst for victory.

“I wouldn’t have gone for two if I didn’t believe in our players and trust them,” Stockstill said. “I wouldn’t have gone for it on fourth down there if I didn’t believe in them.”

Unfortunately, the victory took its toll. The Blue Raiders lost punter Matt Bonadies and starting right guard Chandler Brewer to injuries, and it was unclear at press time whether either will be available for their next game at Florida International.

But with QB Brent Stockstill completing 25 of 40 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns, plus rushing for 31 yards and adding another touchdown, MTSU got plenty of offense. Stockstill has now passed the 10,000-yard mark for his college career, just the 24th player to do that in the modern era.

The University of Memphis was in a foul mood after being thoroughly defeated by Tulane, and they spent Saturday taking out their frustrations on UConn at the Liberty Bowl.

The 55-14 rout on homecoming was over early, as Memphis running back Darrell Henderson and Patric Taylor Jr. romped up and down the field.

The duo had 250 yards on the ground and five touchdowns between them in the first half alone. Henderson finished with 174 yards and three touchdowns, while Taylor had 161 and three scores as well.

“I didn’t care what the situation, what the circumstance, I wanted to see a response,” University of Memphis head coach Mike Norvell told the Commercial Appeal. “We played like Memphis Tigers, and that’s what I was most pleased with.”

The win improves the Tigers record to 4-2, and sets up a critical home game Saturday against the University of Central Florida (UCF). These teams met in the American Athletic Conference Championship game (AAC) last year, and the Tigers came out on the short end.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere and we’re going to be ready to go,” Henderson said. “We got to get revenge.”

It’s also a game for survival, as a loss would be the Tigers’ third in the AAC, and would pretty much eliminate them from the conference race, though they could certainly still make a bowl game.

Dave Roberts facing tough challenge

There is currently only ONE African-American manager in Major League Baseball, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Roberts led the Dodgers to the World Series last year, where they were defeated by the Houston Astros.

While the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series in 30 years, they’ve won the last six Western Division titles, and at press time were ahead of the Atlanta Braves 2-1 and looking towards a National League Championship Series clash against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Yet, instead of being lauded for another great job, the word coming out of Los Angeles is if the Dodgers don’t win the World Series Roberts will lose his job.

Longtime Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke endorsed that sentiment before the playoffs began last week, writing that making the World Series isn’t good enough this year, that the Dodgers MUST WIN or it would be time for a change.

This ridiculous attitude was what got Dusty Baker canned in Washington after last season ended. He took the Nationals to back-to-back division titles, but because they lost in the playoffs management decided he wasn’t the right person to lead them.

So they fired him, and his replacement ended with a worse record and the team missing the playoffs.

MLB already has tons of problems, among them a huge loss in interest among African Americans and young people, and a lack of American born blacks playing the sport at all levels from little league to the majors.

The last thing they should be doing is running off highly qualified and successful African Americans at the management level, yet that seems to be happening.

While there’s little doubt Roberts will get hired elsewhere should the Dodgers lose and he gets terminated, he shouldn’t be under that type of pressure. It is absurd, but it’s a sign of the times in professional sports, where winning isn’t enough, just championships matter.

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