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Quotes from Tuesday's football press conference

Blue Raiders step back into conference play Saturday

October 16, 2007 · MT Media Relations

Head Coach Rick Stockstill Opening comments: "I thought it was a great win for our football team. I thought they competed really well and played really well at certain points in the game. We challenged our team at halftime to play a little more physical and more toughness and they did that. I thought we really dominated the second half. Our defensive front was excellent and our offensive line played one of its better games of the year."

On Arkansas State: "This week Arkansas State presents another challenge for us. They are a really good team. They are No. 1in total offense in (the Sun Belt) and they are No. 1in total defense in our conference. They have some exceptional skill players who create problems. They are very fast on defense. They have been in every game they have played, whether it's been Texas or Tennessee. They have some good games and they have been in every game they have played so we will have a very good team coming in here this weekend."

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About the Middle Tennessee rush defense and what is the difference from early in the year: "Our defense is playing better because we are tackling better. The first couple of games the LSU back and the Louisville back are really good backs so you have to give them credit but the big thing is we are getting more hats on the ball and we are tackling better."

How similar are Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard and Dwight Dasher? And is it easier for fresh quarterback to play when he is a running threat? "There are some similarities. Corey has already gone through what Dwight is. Every game and every practice is a learning experience for Dwight and it's probably true for Corey, except Dwight has played in four games to Corey's 16 or 17. Then again, the more weapons you have around you the better it is going to make you and Arkansas State has several weapons. When you are able to run the ball it makes it easier for your quarterback."

What areas would you like to see Dwight Dasher make improvements? "Dwight has been really good up until Saturday with the turnovers. He made a couple bad decisions and he has to learn if it's fourth down and you are on the 13 then maybe you throw it up there and take a chance, but first down, live to play another down. I think understanding the game and understanding situations is an area where he can and will continue to develop - just understanding the game and every game situation.

"Dwight is a very composed young man. He is not easily rattled. After every series you sit there and talk to him about what he did well and didn't. Until he experiences some situations you have to let him play and go through that but I couldn't be happier with where Dwight is and what he has been doing. I know our team has a great deal of confidence in Dwight."

David Defatta handled the field goal duties last week at Memphis instead of Matt King. Is that change permanent? "There is no position on this team is permanent. I don't care if it's the first game or the 10th game. You have to earn the right to be the starter every week. I believe in competition. There are some positions on this team where we just don't have competition and there are some positions where we do. When we get to the point that we have every position then that's when you have a great team and competition."

Tavares Jones leads your team in tackles, which is rare for a defensive lineman. What does that say about him? "It's a credit to Tavares and his tenacity and how hard he plays the game. He practices extremely hard and when you practice hard it correlates into good play in the game. He has a tenacious attitude that he wants to make every play, every interception and every tackle. He doesn't want to come out of games. He's a football player who loves the game. He plays with great effort on every play from the start to the end."

Four teams in the Sun Belt have one loss or less in conference play, including Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State. Is this an elimination game in any respect in terms of the conference race? "Who knows? All we are worried about is Arkansas State and win, lose or draw we will get ready for North Texas next week. The year before I got here there was a four-way tie with teams that had two losses so who knows? This is a very tight league. There is no game in this league you can look at and think it's a sure win. You don't talk about winning the conference right now. You play Arkansas State and try to do your best and then go on to the next game. Hopefully one loss can win the conference and hopefully that happens."

DT Tavares Jones Talk about the challenge Arkansas State's offense presents? "Arkansas State has a good offensive line, a great quarterback and a hard-nosed running back. I think he is one of the better running backs in the conference and he will be one of the better ones we have faced."

Talk about leading your team in tackles as a defensive lineman? "It all goes back to my fellow defensive linemen forcing plays back to me. I think Wes Hofacker and Trevor Jenkins have made a lot of plays and it's great to see Erik Walden back out there."

OL Brandon Nix When you block for a guy like Dwight Dahser is it a different because of his scrambling ability? "Not really. We know he is mobile but if we do our best to block and the pocket is there then he will stay in there and pass. If the pocket breaks down or no one is open then he is capable of scrambling out of trouble and making things happen.

"Dwight can also get you out of trouble if you mess up. It actually happened to me the other night at Memphis. My guy got past me and I turned to tell (Dasher) to run because it was on his blind side and I didn't know if he could see it coming, but he was already gone. Having a mobile quarterback helps a lot in that aspect."

How has Dwight matured in his four starts? "From the first game when he came into the huddle and you couldn't understand what he said because he was nervous to now when something bad may happen and he is in there calming us down, he has demonstrated great maturity.

"Dwight is a playmaker. If something bad happens on one snap he definitely has a short memory. He comes right back and makes something good happen."

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