Middle Looking Forward to Friday Night Lights

Middle Tennessee takes the field to start the Troy Trojans at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders college school football game in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Saturday, September, 19, 2020. Photo: Harrison McClary

MT Athletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Despite having a limited amount of time to prepare, Middle Tennessee is anxious to hit the field this week and try for its first win of the 2020 campaign.

The Blue Raiders (0-2) found out Saturday their Week 4 bye was being negated in favor of their first Conference USA contest of the season, a unique Friday night affair at UTSA (2-0).

“This game just got finalized over the weekend, but we’re excited to play it,” MT head coach Rick Stockstill said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “We’re anxious to get into conference play … and excited about this opportunity.

“[UTSA] is a good football team. … We can’t wait to get out there and play this game.”

The Roadrunners were supposed to host Memphis, but due to COVID-19 concerns, the Tigers had to cancel, setting up an opportunity for UTSA to invite Middle Tennessee to the famed Alamodome.

It will be the second time the Blue Raiders have ever played in San Antonio, and they’re hoping it goes like their first visit, when they won 42-7 in 2015.

Stockstill would love nothing more than to see his offense break out in similar fashion, but it might be a tough ask. Middle Tennessee has only scored twice in two games this season and averaged 212.5 yards per game, while the Roadrunners have been good defensively at getting into the backfield, racking up 24 tackles for loss and eight sacks and allowing just 91 rushing yards per game.

“They’re very well coached on defense,” Stockstill said. “They’re doing a good job stopping the run … so this is a really good defense that’s big up front.

“To me, the key is being more productive on first down and not taking losses, not having a pre-snap penalty that puts us behind the chains.”

In the teams’ last meeting in Murfreesboro during the 2016 season, the Blue Raiders were defeated 45-25. A large part of that came because of a powerful UTSA rushing attack, which racked up 287 yards and five touchdowns total.

While the Roadrunners have a new head coach this year, Jeff Traylor, they still rely heavily on their run game.

Sophomore back Sincere McCormick was voted to the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Freshman All-American team last season, as well as Conference USA Freshman of the Year, and he’s following that up with an outstanding start to his sophomore year. He’s averaging 147.5 yards per game on the ground through two games, and as a team, UTSA is rushing for 279.5 yards per outing.

“They want to hang their hat on their running game,” Stockstill said. “They’ve got a really good offensive line … and their quarterback does a good job of protecting the ball.”

Middle Tennessee is in for a battle at the Alamodome, but it’s clear they’re excited for the opportunity.

It hasn’t been the start Stockstill and the Blue Raiders were hoping for, but he has confidence that his bunch will wipe the slate clean and have a good showing under the Friday night lights.

“We came out yesterday and had a good practice and good meetings and everything,” he said. “I like their mindset, and we have good leadership on this team. We have to be mentally and physically tough to put that one behind us and move on. We’re in conference play now, and there’s nothing more important than conference play.”

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