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Blue Raiders preparing for bowl game

Team departs for Big Easy on Wednesday

December 11, 2009 · Athletic Communications

Head Coach Rick Stockstill

Opening Comments:
We are really excited for this opportunity to go to one of the great bowls in this country. We have not been there, but from everything I have heard from teams who have been there is that it is a first-class bowl and they do a great job putting it on.

I am really proud of our football team. We ended up 9-3 and we are very deserving to be able to play at the New Orleans Bowl. We have a great challenge with a strong Southern Miss team.

On competing for bowl games year in and year out:
That is how we practice and how we play. That is our goal and our mentality. We want to do it every year. From the very first day I got here, I said we would act, practice, dress, go to class and do everything like a winner. We were able to win the conference that first year and go to a bowl. We are doing it again this year and have won more games than any other year in the history of the school.

When you are building a program there are steps that you go through and a process that must occur. I am not into quick fixes and I am not going to take any short cuts when building this program. To me this is just another step in the growth and process of building this program.

Anytime your conference has more bowl slots for your conference there are more opportunities for teams. This is a very underrated conference on the national scale. We have really good teams in this conference and we have to play difficult teams out of conference. Therefore, it is not easy to win in this conference.

On Middle Tennessee representing the Sun Belt against Conference USA:
I am more concerned about our players. We are not going into this game thinking we have to beat Southern Miss because that will prove our conference is better than Conference USA. That is talk amongst the fans. Afterwards, whoever wins that game can say they had a leg up on that conference. In the big picture when teams in our conference beat teams out of other conferences it makes us look good, but that is not our focus.

On the potential impact of national exposure from playing in the New Orleans Bowl:
I do not think this program is going to take leaps and bounds by winning and I do not think it will crumble if we lose the game. We are still building the program. We have been to two bowls in four years. I do not think you can say this is a make our break game. It is a great opportunity for us in a lot of different ways.

On the bowl game experience for players:
This is a reward for our players. They started on January 14th when they came back from Christmas break and they have not had 25 days off from working out and practicing since last season. There are two objectives to this trip. One, I want to win the game and two; I want to have a good time. There will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy the bowl experience of New Orleans, but when it is time to practice and study film you have to take care of your business.

We are going down there to win the game. We want to play our best football. There are certain places they can and cannot go. You hope they are mature enough that they will do the right thing.

On Southern Miss:
Southern Miss is a really good football team. They have a lot speed with great athletes on both sides of the ball. They have a big play receiver who can take over a game by himself. They have strong running backs that do a good job protecting the football. They have a lot of experience on the offensive line with four seniors and a junior. They are as good an offense as we have played in a while.

On defense Southern Miss has always been known for speed. They have a lot of sacks and tackles for loss. They have a great tradition. Twelve out of 13 years they have been in a bowl game.

On Dwight Dasher:
This game is no different and you do not do anything different. We want him to protect the football and run the offense. It is a bowl game and it is important, but it's just the next game. It is just the 13th game. If you start talking too much about it, then you forget how to play the game. If you go out and play with great passion and play smart, which we always have, you will be fine. If you go out and change your mental approach it messes with everything you have achieved earlier in the season.

On importance of fan support at the New Orleans bowl:
It is critical that we have people there. As coaches and the athletic department we are out promoting the New Orleans bowl and getting people to buy tickets. Whether you go or not it is still very important for fans and community members to buy tickets. I think our fans are doing a great job. We have about a week left. It is a great experience to go to the New Orleans bowl. This is a bowl that has stood behind the Sun Belt Conference since the Sun Belt Conference began. This is what our players, their players, our fans and other fans recognize as our bowl. We are so appreciative of the New Orleans Bowl and the opportunity given.

Offensive lineman Brandon McElroy

On bowl games as a recruiting factor for him:
In 2006 they went to the Motor City Bowl, so that shows you they are a team that competes for bowl games. I wanted to go to a bowl game when I came to college and played for a D-1 team. Coach Stock is a great coach and we have great players and that is a huge factor as well.

On Southern Miss' defensive unit:
They have two linebackers with over one hundred tackles and some very good corners and safeties. They have a big 320-pound nose tackle. It will be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it.

On those players who played in the Motor City Bowl giving experience to younger players:
I have not asked too many of those guys about their bowl experience. It is a big deal, but like Coach Stock said it is just our 13th game. We are going to go out there and do what we have done all season. I do not want to go out there and get nervous and scared.

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