Raiders, Tigers set for in-state showdown Saturday
Hall of Fame induction set for 3:30 PM; Thomas to sing AnthemSeptember 13, 2013 · @MTAthletics
MURFREESBORO - Could Middle Tennessee and Memphis be playing football in Murfreesboro for perhaps the last time on Saturday evening? With both schools having new conference affiliations starting this season, there is diminished likelihood of a renewal of the in-state rivalry, at least in the near future.
This is the last scheduled appearance for the Tigers in Floyd Stadium, and the current series will conclude with a game in Memphis next September.
Kickoff for the in-state showdown is set for 6 PM in Floyd Stadium and the game is sponsored by Wilson Bank and Trust. The game will be shown regionally on CSS with Matt Stewart and Chuck Oliver calling the action with Hannah Chalker providing sideline reports.
The Blue Raider Network will also bring you all the action with play-by-play announcer Chip Walters, and former Blue Raider and NFL quarterback Kelly Holcomb adding analysis. Live stats will also be available at GoBlueRaiders.com.
Middle Tennessee has won the last two games, and holds a 16-8-1 edge over the Tigers in the series that began in 1925 with a 57-7 Blue Raider victory in Murfreesboro.
Blue Raider Head Coach Rick Stockstill notes that it is the tougher opponents in the new conference that Memphis will be joining that is responsible for the Tigers showing much improvement over the team his Blue Raiders beat in Memphis last fall.
"Memphis is much improved from when we played them the last time," declared Stockstill. "They have a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball. They went heavy in the junior college ranks, and brought in some young guys as well. Their defense is a lot faster than last year. I came away impressed with how big and fast they were."
Memphis will be playing in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference that includes, among others, nationally-ranked Louisville, Cincinnati, Houston, SMU and Connecticut. The departure of several teams, including Memphis, from Conference USA helped create the slots that the Blue Raiders and others filled.
Both teams dropped games to Atlantic Coast Conference foes last week, the Blue Raiders falling at North Carolina, 40-20, and Memphis losing to Duke at home, 28-14. Middle Tennessee is 1-1 on the season, while the Tigers are 0-1.
Both teams have indicated that they will likely use two quarterbacks in the game. For MT, senior Logan Kilgore will make his fourth start against Memphis, but freshman Austin Grammer stands ready to take the reins if Kilgore still shows the effects of a shoulder injury suffered in the season-opening win over Western Carolina.
Memphis will counter with 6-5 freshman Paxton Lynch, whom Stockstill noted as "having a huge arm, and he scrambles well and avoids pressure. He must have had a great camp to beat out the guy who started 12 games last year."
This will be Kilgore's fourth game against Memphis, and he likes the rivalry. "It's always a dog-fight, whether it's played here or there. It is always a fun test for us."
Speedy receivers Kyle Griswould and Tavarres Jefferson will be Kilgore's primary targets. Both are red-shirt seniors, with Griswould surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in receptions last week at UNC, and Jefferson closing in on the same milestone with 908 yards. Both have four touchdown receptions.
The running game, with sophomore Jordan Parker and senior William Pratcher carrying the load, has been a strong compliment for the Blue Raiders. In fact, Parker already has six 100-yard games in his first 14. That puts him in some elite company, one of which (Dwone Hicks) will be on hand to watch him play Saturday night.
This is Hall of Fame Weekend at Middle Tennessee, and Hicks is one of five new members to be inducted into the Blue Raider Athletic Hall of Fame at 3:30 PM on Saturday afternoon. The other four are Doug Shrader (basketball and baseball), Priscilla Robinson (basketball), Roger Carroll (football) and Dewon Brazelton (baseball). The induction ceremony is free and open to the public, and will take place on the lawn between the Hall of Fame and the weight room.
Defensively, co-coordinator Tyrone Nix plans to mix in some 3-4 defensive alignments against Memphis to take advantage of the speed of the Blue Raider defense, but linebacker Stephen Roberts feels it is as much effort as natural speed.
"I don't think we are any faster than most other teams. We just try to play as fast as we can on every play. It's about having all 11 players at the ball. This is what the coaches preach to us every day."
In the kicking game, punter Josh Davis leads Conference USA with a 46.9 average.
Following the Memphis game, the Blue Raiders will play at FAU next Saturday in their first official C-USA game, then after a road game at Brigham Young on Friday night, September 27th, they will return home to host East Carolina in the first-ever C-USA home game.
Note: The National Anthem will be sung by Middle Tennessee alum Kris Thomas, who was recently a contestant on "The Voice". Thomas graduated in 2008 and will be setting off on his World Tour after the game.
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
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