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CFN Take: Middle Tennessee Stopped In Bowl
Posted Dec 30, 2013

2013 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders ... Head Coach: Rick Stockstill

Middle Tennessee
Blue Raiders

2013 Record: 8-5
8/29 Western Carolina W 45-24
9/7 at North Carolina L 40-20
9/14 Memphis W 17-15
9/21 at Florida Atlantic W 42-35 OT
9/28 at BYU L 37-10
10/5 East Carolina L 24-17
10/12 at North Texas L 34-7
10/19 Marshall W 51-49
11/2 at UAB W 24-21
11/9 FIU W 48-0
11/23 at Southern Miss W 42-21
11/30 UTEP W 48-17
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
12/30 Navy L 24-6
Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl
Navy 24, Middle Tennessee 6
Basically … Keenan Reynolds ran for two short touchdowns and DeBrandon Sanders ran for a 41-yard score as Navy too an early lead and never trailed. The defense bent, but didn’t break outside of allowing two Cody Clark field goals in the first half from 43 and 24 yards away. The Midshipman offense controlled the game and the clock holding the ball for close to 37 minutes with a running game that cranked out 366 yards and converted 8-of-14 third down chances. The Blue Raiders threatened late, but Logan Kilgore was picked off by D.J. Sargenti to snuff out any last gasp comeback hopes.

- Navy QB Keenan Reynolds completed 3-of-7 passes for 19 yards, and ran 20 times for 86 yards and two scores to finish the year with 31 rushing touchdowns.
- Middle Tennessee QB Logan Kilgore completed 19-of-33 passes for 218 yards and two picks
- Middle Tennessee SS Kevin Byard made a game-leading 14 tackles
- Middle Tennessee LB T.T. Barber made seven tackles with a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
- Navy LB D.J. Sargenti made seven tackles with a pick and a tackle for loss. - Middle Tennessee WR Kyle Griswould caught nine passes for 106 yards
- Navy FB Noah Copeland ran 11 times for 59 yards.

at Middle Tennessee 48, UTEP 17
Basically … Middle Tennessee scored the first 24 points helped by a ten-yard Jeremiah Bryson touchdown run and a 21-yard Marcus Henry scoring grab. UTEP broke up the scoring run with a three-yard Nathan Jeffery dash, but the Blue Raiders responded with a 25-yard Tavarres Jefferson on the way to a 41-7 lead, close out with a six-yard Bryson run early in the third.
- Middle Tennessee Jeremiah Bryson ran 15 times for 120 yards and two scores.
- UTEP RB Nathan Jeffery ran 20 times for 140 yards and two scores.
- Total Yards: Middle Tennessee 629 – UTEP 299
- Middle Tennessee QB Logan Kilgore completed 19-of-27 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns with a pick.

at Middle Tennessee 48, FIU 0
Basically … Middle Tennessee did whatever it wanted offensively with Shane Tucker starting off the scoring with first quarter touchdown runs from 48 and 17 yards away, and the defense got into the act after halftime with Kevin Byard returning an interception 51 yards for a score on FIU’s first drive. The Golden Panthers turned it over four times and managed just 233 yards of total offense.
- Middle Tennessee QB Logan Kilgore completed 17-of-20 passes for 269 yards and a score and he ran for a touchdown.
- FIU converted just 3-of-11 third down chances, missed on both fourth down tries, and finished with just ten first downs.
- Middle Tennessee RB Shane Tucker ran 11 times for 95 yards and two scores.
- FIU QB E.J. Hilliard completed 10-of-15 passes for 133 yards with a pick.

Middle Tennessee 24, at UAB 21, Nov. 2
Basically … Middle Tennessee scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including an 18-yard field goal with three seconds left, to knock off UAB. The Blazers scored the first 10 points of the game, but had to score a touchdown and get a two-point conversion with 1:50 remaining in the game to tie it.
- UAB running backs Jordan Howard and Darrin Reaves combined for 50 rushes and 265 yards.
- Middle Tennessee receiver Marcus Henry had five catches for 136 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown.
- UAB had only 57 yards passing on nine attempts.
- Middle Tennessee only had the ball for 21:21 compared to 38:39 for UAB.

at Middle Tennessee 51, Marshall 49
Basically … Logan Kilgore hit Tavarres Jefferson on a nine-yard touchdown pass as time ran out to give Middle Tennessee the thrilling win. The Blue Raiders needed the comeback after Marshall took the lead in the fourth on short touchdown runs from Kevin Grooms and Essray Taliaferro, but it took just 2:29 to march for the game-winner. Rakeem Cato threw three touchdown passes for the Herd including a 39-yarder to Jazz King, while Kilgore kept pace with three scoring passes and a one-yard scoring run. Chris Brown gave the Blue Raiders a 14-7 first quarter lead on a blocked punt for a score.
- Middle Tennessee really, really needed this. Logan Kilgore’s late touchdown drive turned around a dying season after three straight losses, and now with four winnable games ahead against UAB, FIU, Southern Miss and UTEP, there’s a great chance to go on a decent run to a bowl.
- Marshall was supposed to have the dangerous, explosive offense, and Essray Taliaferro did a great job of balancing out the attack with 134 yards and two scores on 24 carries, but its defense was the story – it couldn’t stop the Middle Tennessee passing game in the clutch and gave up 308 yards on the ground. While this wasn’t devastating to Conference USA title hopes – getting Southern Miss and UAB up next will help – there’s going to be work to do on the road at Tulsa and East Carolina.

at North Texas 34, Middle Tennessee 7
Basically … The North Texas defense showed up in a big way, allowing a five-yard Austin Grammer touchdown run to tie it at seven early in the second quarter, and that was it. The Mean Green overcame three turnovers and scored 27 unanswered points with a 20-yard pick six from Lairamie Lee, the second Reggie Pegram touchdown run and a one-yard score from Brandin Byrd. Zach Paul added two short field goals.
- Just when it seemed like North Texas was going to bow out of the bowl hunt with two straight losses and three in the last four, it came up with a brilliant performance to blast Middle Tennessee. The defense didn’t allow anything through the air, using pressure to limit the Blue Raiders to 66 passing yards and force three turnovers. Derek Thompson threw two picks, but he completed 13-of-19 passes for 113 yards, and the ground game rumbled for 303 yards, helping UNT to hold on to the ball for almost 38 minutes.
- Middle Tennessee didn’t show up offensively for the third straight week. The Blue Raiders have come up with 34 points over the last three weeks with no passing game against the Mean Green. Logan Kilgore completed all eight of his passes, but they didn’t go anywhere with just 30 yards. Austin Grammer came in, and the results weren’t any better completing 6-of-22 passes for 36 yards with a pick, but he led the team with 106 yards and a touchdown. The O needs to find more pop in a hurry with Marshall up next and the season slipping away.

East Carolina 24, at Middle Tennessee 17
Basically … ECU’s Shane Carden ran for a score and connected with Justin Hardy for a 21-yard touchdown in a see-saw game that wasn’t put away until late. The scoring pass put the Pirates ahead early in the fourth, but the chance was there for Middle Tennessee late. QB Logan Kilgore threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Logan Kilgore to tie the game late in the third quarter, and he got the ball in his hands after a missed ECU field goal. Damon Magazu came up with the interception, and ECU held on to the ball for the final five minutes.
- Shane Carden continues to be fantastic for the Pirates. It was a dogfight of a game, but Carden kept pressing, completing 43-of-57 passes for 365 yards and a score, spreading the ball around to 12 different receivers. At his best on third downs, he kept his defense off the field.
- Middle Tennessee played well, and it had chances to pull off the key home win, but the running game didn’t get going and the two interceptions from Logan Kilgore proved costly. Like Carden, he found several receivers and moved the ball around – with nine players catching the ball – but he couldn’t come through in crunch time.

at BYU 37 … Middle Tennessee 10
Basically … The BYU running game rolled up 309 yards, but the defense and special teams got in the act, too. Middle Tennessee took a 10-7 lead into the second quarter on a 16-yard touchdown catch from Marcus Henry, and then it was all Cougars the rest of the way scoring 30 unanswered points highlighted by a 50-yard Taysom Hill scoring dash. Hill ran for two scores and Michael Alisa ran for two short touchdowns, while Kyle Van Noy kicked off the scoring run with a tackle for a safety, and JD Falslev ended it with a 71-yard punt return.
- The BYU running game was more than fine without Jamaal Williams. Taysom Hill picked up the slack with 165 yards and two scores on 18 carries, and Michael Alisa and Algernon Brown did their past with 68 and 55 yards, respective. However …
- The Cougars couldn’t stop giving the ball away. Hill had a nice day, completing 14-of-19 passes for 177 yards, but he threw a pick. Middle Tennessee stayed alive with four BYU fumbles and nine penalties.
- There was absolutely no explosion to the Middle Tennessee attack, and it couldn’t capitalize on all the big breaks. The team’s longest run was just 11 yards, and the longest pass play was a mere 17 yards.
- Blue Raider linebacker T.T. Barber isn’t all that big, and he had to looked at Taysom Hill’s back a bit too much, but he did what he could making 15 tackles with a sack – the team’s only sack – with a forced fumble and two tackles for loss.

at Middle Tennessee 17, Memphis 15, Sept. 14
Basically … Cody Clark hit a 41-yard field goal with just under two minutes to play to give Middle Tennessee the lead, and the defense came up with key sacks late to stop Memphis from getting back into field goal range. Jake Elliott hit three field goals for the Tigers, and Alan Cross gave them the lead with a one-yard touchdown catch after Middle Tennessee took an early lead on a seven-yard Kyle Griswould touchdown catch and a one-yard Jordan Parker run.
- Middle Tennessee held firm when it had to. The offense didn’t work in the second half, but when the team needed a game-winning drive, it came up with one and the defense closed. It wasn’t a pretty effort, but it was a very, very nice win that will be a big deal down the road for bowl hopes.
- Memphis is going to kick itself. It outplayed Middle Tennessee, but it couldn’t convert enough good, deep drives into touchdowns, settling for three field goals, and the 15 penalties and two turnovers were sloppy. The Tigers had this game, and blew it.
- The Blue Raiders couldn’t establish the run, but the Memphis defensive front had a lot to do with that. Jordan Parker couldn’t break free outside of one nice dash, and the offense abandoned the ground game at times.
- The Memphis running game worked, and Paxton Lynch threw well, completing 19-of-27 passes, but everything was controlled and underneath. The offensive line struggled with the Blue Raider pass rush.

at North Carolina 40, Middle Tennessee 20, Sept. 7
Basically … Carolina earned its first victory of 2013, doubling up Middle Tennessee in Chapel Hill on the strength of two Romar Morris touchdowns. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 23-0 lead and never looked back, as Blue Raiders' QB Logan Kilgore threw three interceptions on a day when his health was less than 100%.
- Norkeithus Otis continues to evolve into the kind of disruptive defender that Carolina needs at Bandit. He collected five tackles to go along with half of the Heels' four sacks.
- Blue Raider Jordan Parker rushed for more than 100 yards, another sign that he plans on being one of the top backs in Conference USA this season.
- Carolina's top wide receiver Quinshad Davis caught just two balls for 18 yards and a score. On this day, QB Bryn Renner had more success targeting WR Sean Tapley and TE Eric Ebron, who each caught four balls.
- The Tar Heels scored on all five of their red-zone trips, including four touchdowns. Renner continues to be one of the nation's most efficient passers deep in the other guy's territory.

at Middle Tennessee 45, Western Carolina 24, Aug. 29
Basically … The Blue Raiders scored the first 28 points of the game helped by a 65-yard Jordan Parker touchdown run and a 57-yard Kyle Griswould punt return for a score. They were up 31-3 before WCU got in the end zone twice in the third quarter on two Karnorris Benson touchdown passes, but Middle Tennessee was never in trouble.
- Welcome to Conference USA life. The Blue Raiders committed seven penalties, turned it over twice and got a little loose defensively late, but the offense clicked early and everyone coasted.
- Jordan Parker ran for 156 yards and a score and William Pratcher added 71 yards and two touchdowns. Each averaged 7.1 yards per run.
- The Blue Raider defensive front wouldn’t let WCU breathe. The D cranked out nine tackles for loss and three sacks, coming from all angles.

Spring Analysis

Why To Get Excited … the backfield will keep the Blue Raiders competitive in a lot of games this season. Third-year starting QB Logan Kilgore is now a senior, coming off his tightest season in Murfreesboro. The new star, though, is RB Jordan Parker, who led the team in rushing as a rookie, going for well over 100 yards in three of the final four games.

Why To Be Grouchy … the offense is going to put up points, but the D may give them back just as quickly. Middle Tennessee doesn’t harbor a lot of playmakers on defense after precocious FS Kevin Byard. The Blue Raiders ranked near the bottom of the Sun Belt in far too many key categories, while getting bowled over for more than 4.6 yards per carry.

The Number One Thing To Work On Is … the pass rush. Creating pressure can be the great equalizer for a program light on defensive talent. However, the Blue Raiders managed just 14 sacks a year ago, too few from the D-line. DE Shubert Bastien flashes potential, but someone has to step up and fill the shoes of Omar McLendon on the other side.

Non-Conference Games: Western Carolina, at North Carolina, Memphis, at BYU
Games Against the West: at North Texas, UTEP
Realistic Best Case Record: 7-5
Worst Case Record: 3-9
Likely Finish: 4-8

Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Western Carolina, Memphis, at Florida Atlantic, FIU

Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: at North Carolina, at BYU, East Carolina, at North Texas, Marshall, at UAB, at Southern Miss, UTEP

Schedule Analysis: The Blue Raiders have to win the Sun Belt games. Starting out against Western Carolina will be a much-needed scrimmage before going to North Carolina and hosting an improved Memphis. However, if they can beat Florida Atlantic in the Conference USA opener and get by North Texas on the road and FIU at home, this could be a decent season. It’s going to take a few upsets – like UTEP in the regular season finale or on the road against UAB and Southern Miss – to have any hope of going bowling. It’s going to be a hard fight no matter what to get to six wins.

Team Concerns For 2013: The Blue Raiders have to start getting more out of their pass rush to help out a beleaguered secondary. It was a trickle down effect; the front four didn't get behind the line and the defensive backs got burned time and again. All four starters are back in the secondary, and three were underclassmen, but they're going to have a nightmare of a time in Conference USA unless someone can get to the quarterback. The punt return game has to be far better after finishing 114th in the nation.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. The Blue Raiders went the JUCO route a few years ago, and this time they're building for down the line. Tackle Jordan Harris has the frame to grow into a starting tackle, while Daniel Stephens is a fireplug of a guard who should eventually be good for the running game. Watch out for JUCO transfer Devin Clarke at receiver and prep prospect Kamani Thomas at running back - they could be the featured stars in 2014. Kicker Canon Rooker is good enough to fight for time the second he sets foot on campus.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 116. That Class Was Heavy On ... Receivers. The Blue Raiders haven’t been shy about going after skill players over the last few classes, and last year was about beefing up the lines, but the offense needs more pop for the near future. There’s no receiver depth to count on going into the year, so the JUCO route might be important to help out right away. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 117. That Class Was Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. After getting a bit of instant help from the JUCO ranks and the skill players over the last few seasons, the coaching staff is forming more of a foundation for the offensive front with a few solid prospects with 6-4, 300-pound JUCO transfer Micah James ready to step in and start tomorrow. J.D. Jones is a good, big center prospect who could play guard, and Darius Johnson will be a decent tackle once he hits the weight room.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 105. That Class Was Heavy On ... Key JUCO transfers. This was a good MTSU team last year and it should be in the mix for the Sun Belt title this season, but to get over the hump and win the championship it needed a few more pieces to the puzzle. In come five JUCO transfers to provide help for the depth chart with Logan Kilgore likely to be the No. 2 QB behind Dwight Dasher, Jamar Brown and Jared Bamber sure to be key targets in the passing game, and Arness Ikner a shut-down corner who needs to see time right away.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 99. That Class Was Heavy On ... Skill players. There’s a sprinkling of new recruits here and there, but the stars are at the skills with QB Jamal Ramsey one of the league’s best prospects and running backs David Jones and William Pratcher each good enough to change around the woeful running game. The receivers have size and speed, but they’re extremely unpolished.

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