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Big plays down the stretch carry Raiders to victory

MT uses three sacks to halt Memphis on final drive

September 14, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - A 40-yard field goal by Cody Clark and three sacks in the final minutes propelled Middle Tennessee to a 17-15 victory over in-state rival Memphis in front of 23,992 at Floyd Stadium on Saturday evening.

Middle Tennessee (2-1) held a lead for the majority of the game until Memphis used a fourth quarter touchdown to take a 15-14 advantage. With just three minutes remaining, the Raiders drove down 42 yards and used a career-long 40-yard field goal by Clark to regain the lead.

The Tigers (0-2) never gave up, driving down to Middle Tennessee territory with less than 30 seconds remaining. MT used a sack from Jared Singletary early on the drive to slow down the UM momentum. Five plays later with Memphis on the MT 36, Alexandro Antoine collected another sack to push the Tigers out of field goal range. As the final few seconds ticked down, Singletary inked his second sack of the drive to give the Raiders a victory. The Green Cove Springs, Fla., native finished the day with six tackles and two sacks for a loss of 17 yards.

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Football vs. Memphis
Quarterback Logan Kilgore paced the Raiders with 22 completions out of 36 attempts for 224 yards with a touchdown and interception. Tavarres Jefferson grabbed seven passes for a team-best 78 yards. The running attack was limited to just 60 yards with sophomore Jordan Parker gaining 55 of those on 14 carries.

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Defensively, the Blue Raiders had six tackles for loss and four sacks. Linebacker T.T. Barber managed a career-high 12 stops and picked up a sack, forced fumble, an interception and a pass breakup. He was followed by Gilstrap who had eight tackles, seven of those solo, with an interception. Kevin Byard also had eight stops on the evening.

The Raiders were outgained statistically in total yards 350 to 284 by Memphis despite MT holding the edge in first downs, 20-17. Composure was perhaps the biggest strongpoint for Middle Tennessee as the Raiders had just three penalties for 30 yards. In contrast, Memphis committed 15 penalties for 145 yards.

After a slow offensive start for both squads, Middle Tennessee struck first with the Raiders using a 13-play, 92-yard drive that lasted 5:32. Griswould's seven yard catch from Kilgore gave MT the seven point edge with three minutes left in the opening quarter.

Both teams were near even in yardage at the end of one quarter with Memphis having a two-yard edge, 80-to-78. Kilgore was 5-of-7 for 46 yards, while Whatley had four rushes for 16 yards. Early in the second quarter, Memphis used good field position to make it a 7-3 game as Jake Elliot connected on a 21-yard field goal.

Barber used snagged his second interception of his career and scampered 16 yards to the Memphis 16 yardline. A Memphis personal foul moved the Raiders up eight yards, allowing Parker to score a touchdown three plays later to give MT a 14-3 edge. Memphis used a 41-yard Elliot field goal to make it an eight point contest at the break.

The two squads were close statistically with MT running 38 plays for 167 yards and Memphis 33 plays for 162 yards. MT gained 107 yards from the air attack with Kilgore making 13-of-19 with a touchdown and interception. U of M's Paxton Lynch was rattled, completing 6-of-13 with two interceptions for 55 yards.

On the ground, Parker had nine carries for 41 yards and a touchdown, while Brandon Hayes led Memphis with 40 yards on six attempts. 

Again in the second half, Memphis relied on the foot of Elliot as the placekicker connected on a 27-yard field goal in the third quarter to cut the Raiders advantage to 14-9. The drive went 70 yards on 15 plays and nearly seven minutes long. The third quarter saw a shift of momentum on offense as UM edged the Raiders 9-to-2 in first downs and outgained Middle Tennessee in yardage 132 to 22.

The Tigers used another extended drive to take their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter. Memphis marched down 69 yards on 10 plays in five minutes. UM scored a TD and took a 15-14 edge when Lynch found Alan Cross for a one-yard touchdown strike.

With less than three minutes remaining, the Blue Raiders made a pair of long throws to reach field goal range. Kilgore threw an 18-yard strike to Marcus Henry before finding Jefferson for 25 more yards. Those two plays set up a career-long 40-yard field goal by Clark.

With Memphis driving down the field, MT utilized three sacks to preserve the victory. 

The Blue Raiders open the Conference USA era next Saturday, Sept. 21 with a visit to Florida Atlantic. The game is set for an 11 a.m. CT kickoff in Boca Raton, Fla., and will air regionally on CSS.

GAME NOTES

CAPTAINS: Today's game captains were Tavarres Jefferson, Roderic Blunt and James Roberson.

CLARK ETCHES CAREER FG: Redshirt freshman etched a career-long 40-yard field goal in his game-winner in the final two minutes. Clark's previous career-best was a 30 yard field goal against Western Carolina.

DIALING LONG DISTANCE: Middle Tennessee put together its longest drive of the season when it went 92 yards for a score in the first quarter against Memphis. It marked the 15th 90-yard or longer drive in the Rick Stockstill era. It marked the eighth 90-yard or longer drive engineered by QB Logan Kilgore.

GILSTRAP GETS THIRD: Senior Kenneth Gilstrap registered his third career interception late in the first quarter at the Memphis 2-yard line to stop a scoring threat. It marked Gilstrap's first pick since the win over WKU last season and his first one at home. He also had one in the upset win at Georgia Tech.

QUICK HITTERS: Tonight's attendance of 23,992 ranks as the eighth highest in Floyd Stadium history ... Freshman OL Adam Stickel and sophomore S Xavier Walker both made their first collegiate starts today ... WR Kyle Griswould made his team-leading 18th straight start today ... Kyle Griswould has now caught at least one pass in 25 straight games which ties Matt Lowe for the fifth longest in school history ... Tavarres Jefferson has made at least one reception in 16 straight games ... DT Jimmy Staten, P Josh Davis, and OL Josh Walker all played in their 39th career games which is tops on the team ... DL Jimmy Staten and RB Jeremiah Bryson made their first starts of the season today ... This marked the 90th game for the Blue Raiders under Rick Stockstill ... T.T. Barber had his second career interception to set up a Raider touchdown in the second quarter ... FB Corey Carmichael hauled in his first career reception in the second quarter ... Middle Tennessee has collected at least one interception in five straight home games ... Two of the last three games in the UM vs. MT series have been decided by seven points or less.

QUOTES

Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill

On tonight's game...

I'm really proud of our guys, especially our defense. I'm really proud of our effort. We didn't get much going in the second half offensively, but we hung in there, never gave up and made some big plays at the end. I'm also really proud of Cody (Clark) for making that kick at the end too.

On the offense's rhythm tonight...

Logan (Kilgore) didn't practice a lot during the North Carolina week and then the weather was messed up this week enough that we only got 40 minutes of actual on-field practice. So he didn't really get a full week in this week either, but I thought in crunch time he came up big and we made some big catches there at the end too, which was a big thing. We also had some injuries this week on the offensive line. That mixed with limited practice this week, I think made for us not being great rhythm at times, but I think we came out and competed really well and we were able to get the win and that's the main thing. I'm really proud of how this team competed and played tonight. We're not the biggest guys out there, but we played hard, we play fast and we play smart. We didn't have many turnovers and for the most part we took care of the ball really well. We also did really well in the kicking game tonight so all in all, we played a really good game.

On the defense tonight...

I thought our defense did a good job on those reverses and jet sweeps. They have some really explosive players and I thought we did a great job of shutting them down. We also played with great composure there on that last drive. They did convert a big fourth down there once, but I thought we did a good job at keeping the ball in front of us and then we had a couple big sacks to finish them off. All in all I thought we played really well.

K Cody Clark

On the game-winning kick...

I knew I had to get that kick especially after missing the first one. The nerves were definitely going but my holder Josh Davis really calmed me down and I was able to concentrate and make the kick.

On the last drive...

I really thought we were going to score a touchdown on the last drive. Logan (Kilgore) made some big passes and we made some big catches, but when they called on me I was ready. This should give me a lot of confidence going forward to make bigger kicks in the future.

QB Logan Kilgore

On winning a close game...

It's a lot of fun when you win by 50 points, but these are just about as much fun if not more. It took a total team effort tonight. We all had to come together offensively, defensively and Cody (Clark) made a big kick there at the end so it was a big win for us.

On Memphis defense...

This is without a doubt the best Memphis team I've played against here at Middle Tennessee. They were big and strong and did a lot of good things with their coverage and disguising their blitzes. They have a defensive tackle that has NFL aspirations so we knew this game was going to be tough, but in the end we were able to get the win and that's what matters.

On what to take away for the weeks to come...

I think we can take away confidence from this. When you get the ball back with three minutes left you're not really in any rush situation. We had all three timeouts left so we just had to work our offense. We were able to do that and that should give us a lot of confidence going forward into conference play next week.

Memphis Head Coach Justin Fuente

On tonight's game...

I am disappointed for our kids, to be that close and not be able to come through there at the end is disappointing and the only thing that we have left is to show up tomorrow and go back to work. This is the only way that I know how to.

I don't think we trusted our technique very well on both sides of the ball. I will have to watch the film of it but it was disappointing because we were so fired up, ready to play and ready to go compete that we didn't trust our ability to be there and make the play. We eliminated that essentially in the second half. It was disappointing and we have to trust our technique and what we are coached to do.

On grinding out the game...

It's just hard work. It's not very pretty, two steps forward and one step back. Some kids made some great plays.

On finding success...

In order to get rewarded, we have to play smarter and better. We are getting to the tough and accountable stage; we are getting to the physical play-hard stage. We have to get to the next step of playing smart and trusting technique to get rewarded. I want them to get rewarded but we have to do those things.

On QB Paxton Lynch's play and the second half...

I thought the red zone deal was not a good decision and he was in a bad situation in the second one. We just have to quit making mistakes and go out and execute. It's just about football, blocking and tackling and running. We just need to settle down and go do it.

On increase in the running game from last week...

It's a completely different defense than we faced. It's the cool thing about college football, you see such different things every week, so we were able to handle their movement better than the big gap control defense.

On MT QB Logan Kilgore's plays in the third quarter and throughout the game...

Not just that throw, but there were a couple of sideline throws that I am standing there thinking we are in a really good spot there. He is an over the ally, under the safety player with good touch on the ball and good sense of timing.

On turnovers and penalties...

That is the little things we talk about, we can't have, our margin of error is not big enough for that. We need to make the next step and we are not ready to yet.

On the Memphis program overall ...

When you are invested in something it is very hard to walk away from it. Our guys have become invested in what we are doing. It is a process, a long road and I don't take solace in saying we have come a long way. We have come a long way and we are moving forward.

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