Benny Cunningham has career day, MT stuns Georgia Tech 49-28
In a game in which MT (3-1, 1-0 Sun-Belt) entered as a heavy underdog, Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-2 ACC) approached this as any other matchup that the Blue Raiders and Yellow Jackets had encountered.
Since the two teams began their series in 2010, the Yellow Jackets have dominated MT in each game, 42-14 in 2010 and 49-21 last season.
Georgia Tech had not lost a game to a non-Bowl Championship series school since 1996, and the Yellow Jackets had not lost consecutive home games since 1988.
However, MT was prepared for the Yellow Jackets this meeting, shocking Georgia Tech and the college football world with a dominating 49-28 victory on Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
Senior running back Benny Cunningham ran wild Saturday afternoon against a stingy Georgia Tech defense that has been hit by multiple injuries. Cunningham posted new career highs, with 217 rushing yards on 27 attempts, averaging 8 yards per carry. Cunningham also finished the game with a new career high five rushing touchdowns, one less than former running back Phillip Tanner, who scored six touchdowns against North Texas in 2008.
“Benny is a game changer. As long as we can keep giving him the ball [and] keep him going, I think he’s one of the best [running] backs in the country,” said quarterback Logan Kilgore.
A major contributing factor in the success of MT’s offense, especially the running game, is the terrific play of the Blue Raiders’ offensive line. Coming into the game, MT’s offensive line had yet to give up a sack all season long, tied for first in the nation. The Yellow Jackets recorded their only sack of the game against redshirt junior wide receiver, Kyle Griswould, when they called a trick play and Griswould was called for intentional grounding.
“I give it all to the [offensive] line and the coaches for trusting me,” said Cunningham. “I can’t even put it into words about how hard [the offensive line played].”
Kilgore also performed well, completing 17 passes on 23 attempts for 246 yards and adding 2 passing touchdowns, one of them going for a season long 75 yard touchdown to wide receiver Marcus Henry.
MT got out to a sluggish start, with Kilgore throwing only his second interception of the year on the Blue Raiders opening drive, leading to a one yard touchdown run by Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington.
MT responded quickly to their early mistake, with Kilgore making a spectacular on-the-run throw to redshirt freshman wide out Christian Collis, converting on third and long. Later on the same drive, MT faced a fourth and one, with Benny Cunningham keeping the drive alive and picking up the first down, which eventually led to a spectacular one-handed catch by Anthony Amos for a 4 yard touchdown, tying the game up at 7-7 in the first quarter.
The next score for either team would not occur until early in the second quarter, when Benny Cunningham bolted for a career long 60-yard touchdown run.
MT’s defense played aggressively, forcing three fumbles and adding one interception. The Blue Raiders failed to capitalize on two first half fumbles, with both drives stalling and one resulting in a missed 42-yard field goal by Lopez, his first miss of the season, leading to a 21-21 tie at halftime.
The second half would prove to be dominated by the Blue Raiders on both sides of the ball. MT outscored Georgia Tech 28-7 in the second half with Benny Cunningham continuing to run the ball effectively. The Blue Raider defense played exceptionally well also, holding the third-ranked rushing offense in the country, which averages close to 352 rushing yards a game, to 238 rushing yards and only allowing 187 passing yards.
“Defensively, we didn’t want to give up the big plays. We wanted to play with our eyes and do our job,” said MT Head Coach Rick Stockstill. “Our defense did a good job on keeping the ball in front of them, and I thought we played the option and their offense very well.”
This was a long-awaited victory for a MT football program that has struggled against top conference programs, such as Georgia Tech and the ACC, posting a 2-9 overall record against ACC opponents before entering Saturday’s contest with its last win in 2009 against Maryland in College Park, MD.
“We played [Georgia Tech] three years in a row, they knew exactly what they were getting, and we knew what we were getting,” said Kilgore. “They kicked our butts two years in a row, and we didn’t come down and sneak [out] a victory, we dominated them. I think that’s why it’s the biggest win.”
Stockstill shared his starting quarterback’s sentiment, and said, “[I’m] really proud of our team, it was a great win for our program and for these players, and I’m really proud of them.”
The Blue Raiders will now prepare for another tough matchup against conference opponent UL-Monroe next Saturday, October 6th at Floyd Stadium. MT has an all-time record of 5-1 against Monroe in Murfreesboro and has won 5 out of the last 6 meetings between the teams.
“We get back in conference play next week and we [have] a heck of a challenge,” said Coach Stockstill, “We [need] to enjoy this [win] on the bus ride home, forget about it, and get ready for UL-Monroe.”
Photos courtesy of Bradley Lambert, MT Athletic Communications.