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Blue Raider bowl notebook

Team enjoys unseasonable weather

December 16, 2006 · MT Media Relations

FAN APPRECIATION DAY: The Blue Raider football team will have a Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday prior to the women's basketball game against Louisiana-Monroe. The event will run from 12:30 PM until 1:30 PM and will take place in the auxiliary gym inside the Murphy Center. Special Motor City Bowl posters will be available, along with a place to purchase bowl tickets. The team will be available for autographs and photos during this time.

SEVEN GRADUATE SATURDAY: The Middle Tennessee football program has enjoyed a successful season on the field this year, and earlier today showed how successful it has been off the field. A total of seven Blue Raiders picked up their degrees as they participated in graduation ceremonies at Murphy Center. Walt Bell, Cade Becher, Clinton Corder, Germayle Franklin, Paul Cantrell, Reggie Doucet, and Pierre Ingram will all pick up diplomas. Bell, from Dickson, Tenn., earned his master's in sports management and has plans to pursue a PhD. Bell played in nine games for the Blue Raiders this season. Corder, the team's starting tight end from Brentwood, Tenn., earned his degree in marketing in just three and a half years. Corder played in all 12 games and enjoyed a career-best seven receptions for the year. Franklin, a second-team all-conference pick, was a Draddy Trophy finalist this season and started all 11 games he played. Doucet, a transfer from Prunedale, Calif., earned his degree in just one and a half years. Doucet had a career-best season in 2006 with 40 tackles, three interceptions, and a team-high eight pass breakups. Cantrell, the Blue Raiders' starting center, Becher, and Ingram all saw playing time for the Sun Belt champions in 2006.

SOMETHING TO PROVE?: Although Middle Tennessee has turned in its first winning season in four years, won a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship, and earned its first trip to a bowl game as a Division I-A member, Blue Raider players still believe they have something to prove when they face MAC champion Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl, Dec. 26 - at least to a degree.

Senior linebacker J.K. Sabb says the Blue Raiders have accomplished many goals throughout the 2006 season but going out with a bowl win would be the crowning achievement.

"We have already accomplished a lot and we know what we have done this season but there is still work to be done," Sabb said. "This bowl game is a reward for the season we have had but it's a game we want to win and we are taking it very seriously."

Seems no one outside the Blue Raider camp and the team's fans give the team much of a chance against Central Michigan as most Web sites and prognostications are unanimous as to the game's outcome.

Middle Tennessee players; however, are not subscribing to the theory.

"We went into the season without people expecting us to do much and we did quite a lot so we know what we are capable of doing," senior receiver Taron Henry said. "I don't know that it is as much about proving anything to anyone as it is that we want to be the first group to win a bowl game at Middle Tennessee. We believe in it and we believe it can happen. That's really all that matters. We have to stay focused and get something productive out of these practices."

SHAKING OFF THE RUST: Friday's initial practice in preparation for the Motor City Bowl was the first time Middle Tennessee players have seen action on the field since facing Troy, Nov. 25, so it stands to reason there would be a bit of rust to shake off following a 20-day layoff.

"We came out a little flat but that's to be expected because we have been off for awhile," said senior quarterback Clint Marks. "We were dragging a little bit at the beginning from a practice standpoint but I can assure you everyone was excited to be on the practice field in mid-December getting ready for a game."

As for the game, the Blue Raiders already have started game preparation for Central Michigan and the prospect of being out of school for winter break and having final exams behind them adds a different element to daily workouts.

"Things are a little easier for coaches and players because the exams are over," Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill said. "It's kind of like August two-a-days."

So is the weather, kind of. Players returned to practice in 60-plus degree weather and the temperature for Saturday's afternoon workout reached into the 70s.

"The mental approach is great and it's a combination of being glad to be out here, the weather, everything," senior receiver Walt Bell said. "You could tell we were a bit (rusty) in our approach but that's probably to be expected since we have been away from the field. I don't think it will take much time at all to get back into the swing of things because with classes being out our focus now is all on this bowl game and getting done what needs to be done in order to give ourselves the best chance possible as a team."

SECOND CHANCES: Second chances don't come around too often so the Blue Raiders definitely want to take advantage of the one they have.

"Coach Stock told us the last 3 minutes of the game against Troy did not end the way we wanted it to end but we have a second chance now and we want to make the most of it," said senior defensive back Reggie Doucet. "We have a chance to end our season with a win in a bowl game. It doesn't get much better than that so we are excited and it's great to be out here practicing and getting ready to play Central Michigan."

TWO FIRSTS: The Motor City Bowl will feature two head coaches leading the charge for the first time in a bowl game. Stockstill is in his first season as a head coach while Central Michigan will be under the direction of interim head coach Jeff Quinn.

SIDELINE PASSES: Every Blue Raider fan that purchased tickets for the Motor City Bowl was entered into a drawing to receive two sideline passes for the game. The drawing will take place on Sunday during halftime of the men's basketball game against Louisiana-Monroe. The number of tickets a fan purchased represents the number of chances he/she will have at winning the passes.

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