Blue Raiders face Owls in key SBC matchup

Team will honor 17 seniors

November 26, 2010 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - For Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic, both 4-6 overall with two games left to play in the 2010 football season, it’s time to win or go home.  The winner will stay alive in its quest to become bowl eligible with six wins, while the loser is assured of being on the outside looking in during the bowl season.

The Blue Raiders and Owls will do battle at 2:30 pm Saturday afternoon on Horace Jones Field in Floyd Stadium.  In addition to keeping bowl hopes alive, the winner will move up in the Sun Belt Conference standings, as both teams now sport 3-3 league records.

The game will be broadcast live on the Blue Raider Network, with Chip Walters (pxp) and Kelly Holcomb (analysis) handling the announcing, while Bob Saunders is the producer.  Pregame, halftime and postgame radio shows will be handled by Dick Palmer and Duane Hickey.

FAU and the Blue Raiders have had some classic games in their brief history of the rivalry.  Coach Rick Stockstill’s team holds a slim 4-3 edge over Coach Howard Schnellenberger’s Owls, thanks to having won the last two games. 

Blue Raider fans remember with great delight the game in Murfreesboro two years ago, when Joe Craddock threw a 32-yard, Hail Mary pass into the end zone that was hauled down by freshman Malcolm Beyah with no time left on the clock to tie the game at 13-13.   Alan Gendreau’s extra point kick gave Middle Tennessee a 14-13 win in a nationally televised game on ESPN 2.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Last year, on a hot, steamy afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, the Blue Raiders again came from behind to beat the Owls 27-20 in the signature game of the six-game win streak that closed the season for Middle Tennessee, and propelled them into the New Orleans Bowl. Middle Tennessee blocked two punts and a field goal that day as special teams played a huge role in the hard-fought win.

“I am looking forward to our game with FAU on Saturday,” declared Stockstill.  “Our games here in the past have always been very physical, close games.  I do not expect anything different this time.”

Stockstill indicated that running backs Phillip Tanner and Bennie Cunningham would likely be getting more carries.  “They are running really well and really physical, so they are going to get the majority of carries from the tailback position.  And our offensive line has been getting a good push.”

Senior offensive tackle Mark Fisher noted that the O-line did not always get a lot of credit, except from the coaches.  “When a back gets 100 or 200 yards a game, then we feel a part of that as well.  Late in the game, when we are getting eight and nine yard runs, and you are getting some good blocks, it feels good.”

Saturday’s game will be the final home game for 17 Blue Raider seniors, many of whom have helped re-shape the Blue Raider record book.  The seniors who play offense are Dwight Dasher, Phillip Tanner, Evon Lettsome, Mark Fisher, Chris Hawkins, Garrett Andrews, Wes Caldwell, and Adam Wood.  They have accounted for 343 career starts, 60 touchdowns, 362 points, 5,068 yards passing, 3,946 yards rushing,  1,754 receiving  yards and  9,014 yards of total offense.

Defensively, the Blue Raider seniors are Rod Issac, Jamari Lattimore, Jeremy Kellem, Kevin Brown, Jarrett Crittenton, Dwight Smith, Antwan Davis, Emmanuel Pe rez and Gary Tucker.   They have made 732 tackles, 446 assists, 38.5 sacks, picked off 21 passes, recovered 14 fumbles and blocked 11 kicks.

As far as honors go, this group has been highly decorated.  Rod Issac, Jeremy Kellem, Jamari Lattimore, Dwight Dasher and Mark Fisher have been selected All-Sun Belt Conference at least once.  Phillip Tanner was the National Player of the Week in 2008 for his six-touchdown performance against North Texas.  Dasher was named the Most Valuable Player in the New Orleans Bowl and has two ESPN Helmet Stickers. 

Kellem, Fisher, and Tanner have been consistently recognized for their academic excellence, and just this week, Kellem was named the fourth football Academic All-American at Middle Tennessee.  The group also has several SBC Player of the Week awards, including Issac’s award this week for his 100-yard fumble return against Western Kentucky last Saturday.

“I am proud of this senior class, how they have played on the field, what they have done off the field academically.  There are a lot of fine young men in this class that are going to be really, really successful men once they leave here and get into their careers,” predicted Stockstill.  “I”ll be forever indebted to them, I love every one of them, and respect every one of them.  They are going to be great fathers, great husbands and great people in their communities.”

The Middle Tennessee-FAU game has also been designated as The Learning Circle Honor Roll Day, and honor roll students from area schools will be recognized for their achievements.

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on BRN affiliates, including Nashville flagship station WNSR 560 AM, as well as Murfreesboro flagship stations WGNS 1450 AM and WMOT 89.5 FM .  Live statistics, as well as Web Audio, will be available on GoBlueRaiders.com.

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