Raiders hold final practice before Thursday's bowl game

Bowling Challenge set for tonight

January 4, 2011 · Athletic Communications

MOBILE, AL – Middle Tennessee held its final practice Tuesday afternoon at South Alabama’s on-campus facility. The Blue Raiders had another spirited workout that lasted 17 periods in spring-like weather conditions.

Temperatures were in the low 60s with sunny skies as the Blue Raiders continued to refine their gameplan for Thursday’s GoDaddy.com Bowl against Miami (Ohio) (9-4). The bowl game marks Middle Tennessee’s third bowl in the last five years.

Photos: Day Three Gallery

“I really like the guy’s concentration level right now,” said Head Coach Rick Stockstill. “We had a good practice today and we are ready to play the game. It’s like the opening game of the season when you get tired of hitting each other and you are ready to hit someone else. That’s where we are right now. I have said it the past week, but I like our approach and preparation.”

The Blue Raiders (6-6) opened practice by concentrating on kicking before spending the bulk of the workout in individual and team drills. They closed the workout with more special teams work.

Following practice, selected Blue Raider players went to the South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital to visit the children. Tonight, the team will compete in the AMF Florida Bowl Bowling Challenge against players from Miami (Ohio).

Middle Tennessee and Miami will kickoff at 7:06 PM Thursday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

HOSPITAL VISIT: QB Logan Kilgore, QB Jeff Murphy, RB Phillip Tanner, DT Dwight Smith, S Jeremy Kellem, and OL Mark Fisher represented the Blue Raiders at South Alabama’s Children’s and Women’s Hospital today. The players passed out t-shirts to the children.

BLUE RAIDERS VS THE MAC: Middle Tennessee has faced four teams currently in the Mid-American Conference and carries a mark of 10-8 in those games. The Blue Raiders have taken on Akron, Ball State, Central Michigan, and Northern Illinois. However, MT has only faced three teams that were actually in the league at the time of the game (a win over Akron in 2004, a loss to Central MIchigan in 2006, a loss to Akron in 2005, and losses to Ball State in 1973 and 1974) and have a mark of 1-4 in those contests.

CRITTENTON ON A ROLL: Senior Jarrett Crittenton has picked a good time to play the best football of his career. Over the past three games, all wins, the Fayetteville, Ga., native has 12 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, and two hurries. Prior to the last three games, Crittenton owned just 24 career total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, and no sacks.

DASHER IN GOOD COMPANY: QB Dwight Dasher is one of just four active players in the 2,000/5,000 club with at least 2,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards passing. Dasher has 2,329 yards on the ground and 5,481 through the air to join Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (4,090/9,906), Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor (2,174/6,795), and Ohio State’s Tyrelle Pryor (2,090/5,956).

MOBILE BOWL EXPERIENCE: The Blue Raiders are making their first trip to Mobile for a bowl game but it won’t be the first time for a couple of MT coaches. Offensive Coordinator Mike Schultz coached in the GMAC Bowl with TCU in 1999 and 2000 (TCU won in 1999 and lost in 2000). The 1999 game was the very first for the bowl. Defensive Coordinator Randall McCray coached in the GMAC Bowl in 2005 with Toledo (Toledo defeated UTEP).

TIDBITS: Local radio stations 104.5 The Zone and 560 AM will be broadcasting from Mobile beginning Wednesday. 104.5 The Zone will broadcast from the team hotel on Wednesday and Thursday and 560 AM will broadcast both days from Bimini Bob’s Restaurant in town … Former defensive line coach Les Herrin is in town for Thursday’s game and attended today’s practice …Middle Tennessee is trying to win back-to-back games against a conference champion for the first time in its FBS era when it faces the MAC Champion Red Hawks on Thursday (MT defeated SBC Champ FIU in its final regular season game).

Eric Russell on making an impact in bowl
It is going to be a close game regardless. The kicking game is one of three phases in the game and all are important. We always have to make an impact with the kicking game. My job as a punt returner, kick returner is to help change the game and field position in our favor. 

Eric Russell on studying film for return
I look at film but I mainly look at the cover guards. If I can get past the cover guards then I know I have a good shot at a great return. 

Eric Russell on Miami’s coverage
They are fast coming down but we have some really good blockers so hopefully I can make them miss and get some good returns. Miami does not do anything I haven’t seen before but their cover guards are pretty good.

Eric Russell on first bowl game
I’m not really nervous, just excited. It’s going to be on ESPN, it’s not our first game on ESPN but it’s a big bowl game. We watched the game last night and saw our game pop-up so there is going to be a lot of people watching. I’m just excited to play and be a part of it. 

Dwight Dasher on being an impact in the bowl game
I hope I have a good game. I feel like if I have a good game then the team will have a good game. I hope they build off me and that the offense and defense build off of each other. If both play well then we will have a good game.

Dwight Dasher on how this bowl team is different
It’s not too different as far as the receivers go. I had big threats on the outside and inside last year but as far as the team goes, it’s not that different.

Dwight Dasher on being remembered for bowl performance
It’s not important to me, I just want to go out there and win. I just want to be remembered for who I am and what I did my whole career, not just one game.

Dwight Dasher on being back in a bowl despite early season distractions
It is a great feeling but it will be even better if we win. It will be great especially considering the way I started out in the beginning of the year.

Dwight Dasher on what it will take to win the game
We need to protect the ball on offense and make plays when we have a chance. Protecting the football is the number one priority.

Jamari Lattimore on almost getting an interception on first play of New Orleans Bowl last year
I still really haven’t forgiven myself for not intercepting that ball. It still messes with me and if I ever got the chance again I would make sure I got it. 

Jamari Lattimore on late season sacks and Miami adjusting scheme to him
I would like to think so but if they don’t then more power to me. They might run my way the whole game, I just don’t know. I don’t really judge people because they are always better than they look on tape. I just have to find out when the game starts. They look good on film but you never know until you lineup and face them.

Jamari Lattimore on closing in on the Sun Belt sack record
People tell me about it but I don’t really pay attention to it. I may get it or I may not. I just want to win.

Jamari Lattimore on game being a battle of wills
I wouldn’t really say it’s a battle because it’s not about them, it’s about us. They could line up in anything but as long as we execute right then we should be successful.

Rick Stockstill on Wednesday Practice
The rain is coming in and if we can’t get out in the morning then we can’t practice because we have a press conference and luncheon. We will just have to wait and see and play it by ear a little bit.

Rick Stockstill on Les Herrin being in town
He is my special guest. He’s my best friend and we have been together for a long time. I tried to get him to come up for a couple games this year and just couldn’t get it worked out. He got in yesterday and it’s good to see him. He is a great friend and I talk to him all the time. It’s good for him to see the guys he coached and I’m glad he’s here.

Rick Stockstill on Jamari Lattimore getting double teamed
I think so. It’s like when you double cover someone in basketball or do something different then they can’t get a guy out in their passing game or it will put someone else one-on-one.

Rick Stockstill on Miami (OH) changing from right-handed to left-handed quarterback
No, it doesn’t change anything for us. The only thing you have to do is call someone on this back side here to face what’s coming but no I don’t see changing anything. They didn’t do anything different to their offensive line.

Rick Stockstill on Miami (OH) kicking game
No. 90 has blocked three punts. It’s kind of like last year where we had a couple of blocks but we knew Patrick Honeycutt was going to catch it and not break anything. Our philosophy last year was to put pressure on and secure the catch. I don’t know what their philosophy is but they have blocked three kicks this year. 

Rick Stockstill on Eric Russell and the return game
In bowl games like this where it has been 33 days since we’ve played, it’s almost like an opening game for the kicking game. If you look at all the bowl games there has been a big play in the kicking game. There is no doubt we have talked about it.   

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