MT Gets Third Shot at Upset Against Mizzou

September 20, 2003 · Nate Rau, Special to GoBlueRaiders.com
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Middle Tennessee will get one more shot at making history on Saturday when it travels to Missouri to play the No. 23-ranked Tigers at 1 p.m.

The game will complete the Blue Raider's three-game road trip against major conference teams, but Middle Tennessee is hoping it can change its fortunes in Columbia. The team has played admirably, but ultimately fallen in its first two upset bids at Georgia (29-10) and Clemson (37-14). Now the Blue Raiders (0-3) hope their continually improved play leads to their first ever win over a ranked opponent. Coming into Saturday's game, the team is 0-6 against ranked teams.

"The season is not over and we're not giving up," senior linebacker Joey Montalbano said. "We've improved every game and our attitude is still good, which is different from last year. We go into every game expecting to have a chance to win and there are nine games left in our regular season, there's plenty of time to get this turned around."

Doing so against the Tigers will be a monumental task. Missouri has stormed out of the gates to a 3-0 record, including outscoring its last two opponents (Ball State and Eastern Illinois) by a combined score of 72-7.

"They're a good football team," Middle Tennessee head coach Andy McCollum said. "They've done great things in three years. They're 3-0 and #23 in the country, so we know the challenge ahead of us. We know it's another tough trip, even though it's another great opportunity for us. We're going to practice and we're going to go in there believing in ourselves."

For the third straight week, the Middle Tennessee defense will be dealing with a top-notch signal caller. This week's challenge comes in the form of Heisman trophy candidate, Brad Smith.

"When they put Heisman next to your name, that's pretty special," McCollum said. "He can run, he can throw, he can do a lot of things. We've got to be disciplined and we have to be relentless with effort. We've played good quarterbacks- this is our third great quarterback [in a row]. He brings a little different dimension because he can throw and run well."

Middle Tennessee is hoping that facing these tough non-conference foes will translate into overall improved play when the Sun Belt Conference portion of the schedule begins.

"We just have to look at the good things and take away the negatives," linebacker Randy Arnold said. "We like the challenges [of playing teams like Georgia and Clemson]. It makes us better as a team. We just hope it carries over to the conference games."

The Missouri game will be available via radio through the Blue Raider Network, locally on WBOZ FM 104.9 and WMOT FN 89.5 and on the internet at GoBlueRaiders.com.

Nate Rau is a junior at Middle Tennessee. Reach him at naterau9797@yahoo.com

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