HONOLULU (AP)Zeke Rankin kicked four field goals, including a 37-yarder for the go-ahead score with 2:05 left, and Middle Tennessee State beat San Diego State 25-23 in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night.
The Blue Raiders (8-5) overcame a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to turn back the Aztecs (7-6) in a game that featured six lead changes.
Rankin converted four of his five field goal attempts to tie the Hawaii Bowl record for field goals. He made kicks from 44, 49, 26 and 37 yards and missed from 42.
”What a ball game,” Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill said. ”I’m just really proud of our team. We struggled offensively up front protecting us at the line of scrimmage, but we found a way on that last drive to make things happen to get us down here and Zeke made a big-time field goal. It was just a very tough, hard-fought, competitive football game.”
San Diego State took a 23-22 lead with 5:43 to play on a 52-yard field goal by Jack Browning, but Middle Tennessee State drove 55 yards in 12 plays, capped by Rankin’s 37-yard field goal to put his team ahead for good.
”We stayed positive, we stayed the course and there’s going to be adversity in every game. We faced some adversity early, but we overcame it,” Stockstill said.
Middle Tennessee State finished with 170 yards of total offense to 364 total yards for San Diego State.
Chase Cunningham was 26-of-43 passing with one interception for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Jaylin Lane finished with 10 receptions for 111 yards and a 16-yard TD grab that put the Blue Raiders back ahead 22-17 with 13:25 left to play.
Lane’s touchdown catch came two plays after Jordan Ferguson came down with an interception of a San Diego State pass that was tipped by linebacker Parker Hughes.
The Blue Raiders won despite allowing seven sacks and being held to minus-61 yards rushing. They were just 3 of 17 on third downs.
San Diego State was 4 of 16 on third downs.
”We got to play better football, especially offensively,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. ”I think it was a great game, it was a great bowl game to be in, especially with a really good Middle Tennessee State team.”
San Diego State led 14-13 at halftime.
It was the first meeting between the schools.
Middle Tennessee State: After being picked by league media to finish eighth (out of 11 teams) in the C-USA preseason poll, the Blue Raiders finished the season out in a strong way by winning their final four games, capped off by their sixth bowl in eight seasons and 10th overall in 17 seasons under coach Rick Stockstill.
San Diego State: The Aztecs were projected by Mountain West media to finish second in the West Division behind Fresno State. Their season saw personnel changes at offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and quarterback, which helped to spur five wins in seven games following a 2-3 start to the year.
OUT WITH A BANG
Middle Tennessee State defensive end Jordan Ferguson entered the game one sack shy of setting the all-time school record. The redshirt senior didn’t get the record-setting sack Saturday, but still did enough to be selected as MVP of the bowl game. Ferguson tallied five tackles, including three solo stops, one tackle for loss, an interception, one pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. Ferguson also was on the receiving end of an 8-yard TD pass from Chase Cunningham in the second quarter.
”I say this about all of our players, they’re more concerned about the alphabet than they are in numbers and (Ferguson), all he wanted was a `W,’ he didn’t care about a number,” Stockstill said. ”He wanted a W and he got a W. . He’s had a wonderful career, he’s a great man and he’s going to be a great NFL player.”
In the aftermath of his TD reception, Ferguson drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after he spiked the football in the end zone. Stockstill gave him a pass for the snafu.
”We won, I’m happy for him. . He’s an emotional guy and he apologized; He knew he was wrong, but we overcame it,” Stockstill said.
LUCKY NO. 7
Blue Raiders’ cornerback Decorian Patterson recorded his seventh interception of the year at the 11:33 mark of the second quarter, which matches Buffalo’s Marcus Fuqua for the most in FBS this season.
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