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Winning Box Scores: Week 11

Middle Tennessee true freshman QB Nick Vattiato's first start was one for the record books.

I was busy playing God/predicting the future last week, and as such I didn't have the time to dive into every box score from Week 10. So I had to play a lot of catchup for today's edition. 

And, boy, there were some odd games in Week 10.

Thus far we've tracked 703 FBS games, and 39 have been tied at halftime. That's right around 5 percent. In Week 10, we had five ties in 61 games, which is above the norm, but not only that we had two scoreless halftime ties. Army and Air Force traded goose eggs in the first half of a game Army eventually won 21-14 in overtime, and Arizona and Cal did not score before halftime in Arizona's eventual 10-3 win.

Thus far, two games apiece have been tied in rushing and passing yards, but we nearly had our first complete yardage tie. In Texas State's 27-19 win over ULM, the teams both passed for 262 yards, and the Bobcats rushed for 172 yards to the Warhawks' 170. 

In Eastern Michigan's 52-49 win over Toledo, the Eagles were out-rushed (211-130), out-passed (461-360), gave up an opening drive touchdown and trailed 28-24 at the half. So how they'd win? They forced three turnovers and surrendered only one, building a 14-0 advantage in points off turnovers.

And speaking of turnovers, we saw perhaps our most lopsided turnover game of the entire season in Week 10. In Western Kentucky's 48-21 defeat of Middle Tennessee, WKU committed zero turnovers, MTSU committed seven. Seven!

Making the first start of his career, true freshman Nick Vattiato served up five interceptions, including four in the first half and two on consecutive drives. His first pick gave WKU the ball at the Blue Raider 13-yard line, where they quickly took a 14-7 lead, and then his second pick was returned 43 yards to make it 21-7. He was picked on his next drive as well, and then a fourth time that nearly became a pick-six and helped the Hilltoppers take a 31-14 lead. 

Western opened the second half with a touchdown drive, and the Middle running back Martell Pettway fumbled, setting up WKU's fourth touchdown drive of 33 yards or fewer. 

Backup Mike DiLiello replaced Vattaito on the ensuing drive with MTSU trailing 45-14, but then he was replaced when his first pass was picked. 

Now back in the game, Vattaito was picked for the fifth game when his deep ball on a 2nd-and-8 near midfield was intercepted. To his credit, Vattaito finished the game, going 6-of-11 for 49 yards from that point forward to finish with a stat line of 24-of-41 for 205 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. 

And here's the truly wild think about this game: Middle Tennessee is tied for fourth nationally in turnover margin, even after throwing up a minus-7 game. The Blue Raiders are tied for the national lead with 29 through seven games (WKU was one of two games where they did not produce a takeaway) and their +11 margin is bettered by only three teams in FBS. Takeaway the minus-7 game and the gap between themselves (+2.0) and the next-best team (Cincinnati, +1.3) would be as great as the gap between Cincinnati and the No. 20 turnover margin teams (Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan). 

WKU is 12th in the nation with a +0.9 turnover margin, but remove the MTSU game and they'd be tied for 48th. 

"We kind of flipped the script on them, going into this game that's all we talked about all week. They're leading the country in creating turnovers and then we go out there and we got seven. That was a fantastic job by our defense and really it was easy offensively most of the night because where the ball position was on the field. The defense did just a fantastic job, and it was just great to see because we were focusing all week on protecting the ball and not giving them the ball and then we came away with seven turnovers which was awesome."

Below are the numbers for Weeks 10 and 11:

-- Win the rushing battle: 94-30 (.758)
-- Win the passing battle: 72-51 (.585)
-- Score first: 80-44 (.645)
-- Lead at halftime: 100-14 (.877)
-- Win turnovers: 69-20 (.775)
-- Win all five: 15-0 (1.000)

Year to date:

-- Win the rushing battle: 545-156 (.777)
-- Win the passing battle: 406-295 (.579)
-- Score first: 498-205 (.708)
-- Lead at halftime: 557-107 (.839)
-- Win turnovers: 408-121 (.771)
-- Win all five: 115-0 (1.000)