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Blue Raiders open SBC play at North Texas

Kickoff scheduled for 6:05 PM Saturday

September 25, 2009 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Riley Dodge is the highly-touted red-shirt freshman quarterback for North Texas, the son of Mean Green coach Todd Dodge. In his very first collegiate game, he was named the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week in UNT's 20-10 win at Ball State. He will be the North Texas QB in Saturday's 6:00 p.m. game against Middle Tennessee after missing last week's loss at Alabama with a sore shoulder.

Chris McCoy is Middle Tennessee's stellar defensive end, who earned Sun Belt and National Defensive Player of the Week honors in the Blue Raiders last-second, 32-31, win at Maryland a week ago. And McCoy's friends are the quick Raider defense, led by senior linebackers Danny Carmichael and Cam Robinson, junior defensive end Jamari Lattimore, and a veteran secondary led by senior Alex Suber.

How well the Blue Raider defense can contain Dodge and the Mean Green offense will go a long way toward determining the outcome on Saturday.

The 6-4, 245-lb McCoy had a marquee day against Maryland with nine tackles, six of them solo tackles, four of them for a loss and one sack. He also blocked a field goal attempt, recovered a fumble and had a pass-breakup.

"That is a career for some guys," said Blue Raider head coach Rick Stockstill. "He is playing better every game, and finally playing up to the potential that we knew he had when we recruited him. He has worked very hard, and it shows."

Largely overlooked in the wake of McCoy's tremendous game is what Lattimore did on the other end. He tied the school record for sacks in a game with three against Maryland senior QB Chris Turner, and also forced a fumble.

Carmichael, who will be starting his 25th game at MT, has 189 career tackles, 22 of them for a loss. He and Robinson lead the team in tackles thru the first three games.

The veteran secondary of Suber and juniors Kevin Brown, Rod Isaac and Jeremy Kellem rank second in the Sun Belt, yielding only 191 yards per game, only three/tenths of a yard behind SBC leader North Texas.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, as he does against every opponent, will use McCoy and his friends to try to disrupt Dodge and the Mean Green offense with stunts and blitzes. And in his three previous games vs. North Texas, the Raiders have been successful

Since Stockstill and his staff arrived in 2006, Middle Tennessee has recorded 11 sacks vs. North Texas in the three games played. The Raiders have won all three, by an average margin of 31.1 points per game, but Saturday's conference opener for both teams is expected to be a fourth quarter battle.

Offensively, junior QB Dwight Dasher continues to improve every game. He threw for 204 yards against Clemson, 231 yards against Memphis, and an eye-popping 324 yards in the Maryland win. Perhaps even more impressive was the game-winning drive that he engineered, covering 73 yards in 90 seconds, with no timeouts. Dasher was 4 of 4 passing for 65 yards to set up Alan Gendreau's winning field goal as time expired.

No less than a dozen different receivers have caught passes in Offensive Coordinator Tony Franklin's hurry-up spread offense through the first three games. Leading the group are seniors Patrick Honeycutt and Chris McClover with 14 and 11 catches, respectively.

On the down side, Middle Tennessee's senior running back Phillip Tanner is still out with a knee injury, and will miss getting to play close to his hometown of Dallas. Tanner will be replaced by sophomore D.D. Kyles, who has made much improvement since Tanner was hurt, and senior Desmond Gee, who scored on a six-yard run against Maryland.

Gendreau, who was named the SBC Specialist of the Week, will handle placekicking duties, while senior David DeFatta, who had a career-high five punts inside the 20 yard line at Maryland, will handle punting and kickoffs.

This will be the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams. North Texas holds a 5-3 edge in the series, and the winner of this game will take the top spot in All-time SBC wins. The two teams are currently tied with 31 victories each.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:05 pm CDT, and the game will not be televised. The Blue Raider Network, featuring Chip Walters and Kelly Holcomb, can be heard on WMOT-FM 89.5 (Murfreesboro), WGNS 1450 AM 100.5 (Murfreesboro) and 101.9 FM (Murfreesboro), WNSR 560 AM (Nashville) and 103.9 FM (Bowling Green, KY). Fans can also log onto GoBlueRaiders.com to listen to the radio broadcast while also following live stats.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.