40-something year-old lineman Matt Taylor (number 55) made his Middle Tennessee Bulldawg debut. Photo by Kim Allen

EVANSVILLE, IN — For the first time in team history, the Middle Tennessee Bulldawgs Minor League Football Team took their show on the road. They came home with a 26-13 victory over fellow Mid-South Football Alliance member the Evansville Rangers but didn’t seemed to be pleased with the outcome.

“We have a lot of ‘me first’ guys on this roster,” said head coach Blaine Boone. “Our management has done a great job of recruiting players to play here but this selfish stuff has to cease. We played a decent first half then we tried different players and some of the starters got disrespectful. There will be some guys that have been stars in the past that will not be playing next week. You can bet that.”

Boone’s frustration was due to the comeback that the Rangers made. After taking what was thought to be a 20-0 commanding lead in the first half, the Bulldawgs let Evansville off the hook by committing penalties on offense to stall drives and penalties on defense that gave the Rangers good field position. Also, key turnovers hurt the Bulldawgs as well.

Randall “Bay Bay” Smith started the scoring for Middle Tennessee. A fumble by Bulldawg quarterback Jason Hankins during the opening drive gave the Rangers the ball in Middle Tennessee territory. Smith stepped in front of a Rangers pass at his own 21 yard-line and made a sprint to the end zone. The touchdown was Smith’s third of the season, two coming off interceptions and one on a kickoff return. He also had a touchdown called back on a punt return this season.

“Bay Bay is a guy that just makes plays for us,” said Bulldawg defensive coordinator Cromwell Stewart. “He is a dangerous returner and is always around the ball on defense. He is probably the most consistent player we have.”

Stewart’s defense would have been flawless in the first half if it wasn’t for penalties. Seven offsides penalties gave Evansville the only three first downs they had in the first half. The Bulldawgs did force three other first half turnovers. Interceptions by T.J. Dollard and Travis Carter along with a fumble recovery by L.J. Jamison stall drives and gave the offense good field position.

After Jamison’s fumble recovery, the Bulldawgs went 30 yards on eight plays capped off by Hankins’ two-yard pass to tight end Billy Bailey to go up 12-0. Newly signed running back Sanchez Holder (14 carries 75 yards and a touchdown) then capped off the first half scoring when he pounded in from three yards out and fellow back Jefferey Simmons bulled his way in for the two-point conversion.

After a scoreless third quarter, Evansville score on two consecutive possessions taking advantage of Bulldawg miscues. After an interception thrown by Steadman Bell, the Rangers took over at the Bulldawg 24-yard line. A penalty by Middle Tennessee put the ball at their own 10-yard line. Three plays later the Ranger quarterback threw a touchdown pass.

A good return on the ensuing kickoff by rookie Twon Edmundson was negated by yet another penalty putting the Bulldawgs in bad field position to start their drive. Consecutive penalties backed them up to their own five-yard line. A high long snap forced Bulldawg punter Tim Brecht timing to be off so his punt went 12 yards giving the Rangers the ball at the Bulldawg 17. On fourth down, Evansville scored on a 14-yard pass play to make the score 20-13.

“Mistakes costed us on those two drives,” said Stewart. “We also tried some new players at positions to see what they could do. It’s on me for that but we came out with the win. That’s all that matters.”

Smith then made another big play returning the kickoff 63 yards to the Evansville 32. The drive looked like it stalled but an illegal substitution penalty on fourth down by the Rangers gave the Bulldawgs new life.  Blindside blitz forced a Bell fumble that was recovered by the Rangers. On the play after, Bulldawg defensive back DeQuinn Watford intercepted a pass and ran it back to the Evansville 14-yard line. Simmons then sealed the game with a nine-yard touchdown run.

“We never doubted ourselves even when they scored on us,” said Holder who won player of the game honors. “We have some work to do but I believe in this team. Stuff like this happening will only make us better.”

Bulldawg Bites:

• Newly signed players running back Sanchez Holder and defensive backs Travis Carter and Dorell Baugh all • The Bulldawg organization is now 12-0.

• With starting quarterback Cass Barnes out, the Bulldawgs used wide receiver Stedman Bell abd Jason Hankins behind center

• This is the first game that the Bulldawg defense has given up two touchdowns.

• You can catch every Bulldawg game on The Cube by going to www.thecube.com