Raiders, Eagles clash in New Orleans Bowl tonight at Superdome

MT hopes to extend win streak

December 20, 2009 · Athletic Communications

NEW ORLEANS - With a benchmark of nine wins, seven wins in Sun Belt Conference play, and a six-game winning streak, 2009 has already been the most successful season in the Football Bowl Series era for Middle Tennessee's football team.

But this Middle Tennessee squad still has a chance to leave a real legacy behind when they meet Southern Miss in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Sunday night at 7:30 PM. The game will be shown on national television on ESPN and online on ESPN360.com, and will also be aired nationally on ESPN Radio.

But, the Blue Raiders are not satisfied with what has been accomplished so far. They all want more. And the New Orleans Bowl game provides that opportunity.

Still on the table are a 10-win season, the first bowl win for Middle Tennessee in the FBS era, and the possibility of leaving a seven-game winning streak for next year's team to try to extend.

Southern Miss will be a formidable foe, and would likely be the best team that the Blue Raiders have beaten this year if Middle Tennessee can accomplish that feat. Like Middle Tennessee, USM has a fast-paced offense that averages 33 points per game and features a strong-armed quarterback in junior Martevious Young and a 1,000-yard per year rusher in senior Damion Fletcher.

Middle Tennessee will counter with a defense that has been improving all season, is nationally ranked in several categories, and boasts seven All-Sun Belt Conference Players, including co-Defensive Player of the Year Chris McCoy. McCoy was also named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year by Sporting News.

McCoy, a senior defensive end, leads the Sun Belt in tackles for loss with 20, and is second in sacks with seven. He was named a national Defensive Performer of the Week for his performance in the win at Maryland. He had nine tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup, and a blocked kick against the Terps. He also returned a fumble 68 yards for a score against Clemson

Joining McCoy as First Team All-Conference were cornerbacks Alex Suber and Marcus Udell, along with safety Jeremy Kellem. Second Team All-SBC honorees were linebackers Danny Carmichael and Cam Robinson, and end Jamari Lattimore.

In the season-ending six-game winning streak, Middle Tennessee has given up only 19.2 points per game. They have collected 26 sacks, 61 tackles for loss, forced 21 turnovers including 11 interceptions, and blocked six kicks.

And the Blue Raider offense has come on strong as well, posting 41.2 points a game during the last half of the season. Senior center Mark Thompson, who will be playing in his 50th career game in the New Orleans Bowl, was named First Team All-SBC, while juniors Mark Fisher (OL) and Dwight Dasher (QB) were named to the second team.

Dasher is at the controls of the offense, and is only 47 rushing yards away from joining a very elite group of players that have passed for 2,000 and rushed for 1,000 yards in the same season. Dasher has passed for 2,627 yards and 21 touchdowns, and has rushed for 953 yards and 11 scores.

Sophomore running back D. D. Kyles has added some punch to the Raiders running game. After replacing the injured Phillip Tanner at running back early in the season, Kyles has exploded for 822 yards on 127 carries (6.5 yd avg.) and three touchdowns. He has also caught 14 passes for 182 yards and one score.

Tony Franklin's wide-open offense has seen nine different receivers catch at least ten passes each, and nine different players attempt a pass.

Sophomore placekicker Alan Gendreau earned First Team All-Conference honors as well, hitting 18 of 21 field goal attempts and all but one of his 45 extra point attempts. He led the Sun Belt in kick scoring with 98 points, and made 12 consecutive field goals during one stretch. Punter David DeFatta placed 21 punts inside the opponent's 20 yard line, including five in the win at Maryland.

In addition to being on ESPN, the game will also be carried live on the Blue Raider Network, featuring Chip Walters and Kelly Holcomb. BRN affiliates are WMOT-FM 89.5, WGNS AM 1450 and FM 101.5 in Murfreesboro, WNSR 560 AM in Nashville, and 103.9 FM in Bowling Green, KY.

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