Raiders hit the road to face familiar foe North Texas

Saturday's kickoff set for 6 p.m. in Denton

October 8, 2013 · @MTAthletics

Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill

Opening Statement:

I'm excited about this game. They're 0-1 in the conference, we're 1-1. This is a critical game for both of us. I think they're a much improved team over last year. Offensively, they're a very explosive team. They've got three of the top 10 receivers in the conference. Their quarterback is playing at a high level this year. He's protecting the ball well, and has really made a lot of improvement from last year.

Their defense is not giving up a bunch of points. They're fast and athletic. Their secondary is very active in the run game. Their safeties are talented. Their kicking game is a strength this year, whereas it's been a weakness in years past. Their punt returner is very dynamic, as he leads the conference in punt returns, and is very highly-ranked nationally. They returned a kick for a touchdown and blocked a punt for a touchdown against Georgia. We've got to be big in the kicking game. This is a huge game for us, and I'm anxious to compete, and go down there and play.

On similarities between the two defenses:

They're not really big, but they're fast. We're not really big, but we're fast. They created five turnovers against Ball State. They're a very active defense. Their secondary is involved in the run game, and has forced a lot of fumbles. Their corners are good, and have come up with some interceptions. I think the athleticism and speed of their defense is very similar to us.

On winning four of the last five conference road games:

Your mental toughness is probably displayed more on the road than it is at home. You go through the logistics of the travel. You're in a new hotel, a new stadium and a new locker room. Your focus and mental intensity has to be raised to a new level. I think we're a very tough football team, and I think we're a very mentally tough football team. That probably has a lot to do with our success.

On red zone offense:

Execution is part of it. We turned the ball over at North Carolina inside the five-yard line. We turned it over again against Florida Atlantic inside the three-yard line. We missed a field goal against Memphis. You have to give the other side credit, too. But we have to execute better from a ball security standpoint and a schematics standpoint.

On the passing game:

We really haven't thrown the ball down the field a whole bunch. We've thrown some take-offs, hit Tavarres [Jefferson] on a couple seam routes, and a couple to Terry Pettis. It's not like we're sitting back there, waiting for 15-18 yard routes to develop. We've been pretty much a quick-game, screens and intermediate passing routes team all year. I think we completed more balls against East Carolina than we have in previous games. We're not creating very many explosive plays. That's where we've got to get better. We've got to get more explosive plays than what we have so far this year.

On Kyle Griswould's emergence:

He came in as a running back. Then we moved him to wide receivers. Kyle's got phenomenal ball skills. He's got great quickness. He can make you miss. He's a very physically strong player. He can break tackles with his lower body strength. He's just a really good football player. He competes every down, he blocks, he plays well without the ball. He's our punt returner; he's brought one back for a touchdown. We're very proud of him and very pleased with him, and it's been great to coach him.

On the familiarity of North Texas:

It helps that we know a little bit more about their personnel. We saw East Carolina on film, and you base your decisions on that. You see their speed and athleticism, but you don't know for sure until you see them up close. With North Texas, FAU and FIU, you've competed against them for years, and you know a bit more about them, from a personnel standpoint because you've competed against them.

Redshirt Senior QB Logan Kilgore

On the vertical pass game:

Week to week it's always based on what the defense is giving us, what they are trying to take away. This week it's still the same play calls and type of passing game. There were things that were open short, and we tried to give our guys the opportunity to catch the ball and run.

Whether it's a 15-yard route or a 20-yard route, it's only a matter of 0.7 seconds so it's not like I need to squeeze the ball that much longer in order to through the ball farther down field. It's based on what the defense is trying to do and trying to take away, so that is what we are trying to attack.

On the play of Kyle Griswould:

He has done a great job ever since he came here. Griswould and [Anthony] Amos stood out from that class, guys that could make a play at any time. He has had a lot of success, and probably the best game of his career came against North Texas last year. He is a guy that can catch the ball and make a play after the catch. It sets him apart from the other guys. Not only making a play, but he constantly has big play potential.

On the offensive line injuries:

It's tough. We haven't started the same center in back-to-back games all year. They have done a great job being able to adjust to the different combinations and looks that Coach Wade has been able put out there. It's tough for those guys and tough on the running backs who has to understand the different ways we are going to block. You never really miss players like Micah James and the others until they are gone. Once they move on it has been a struggle to find someone that can consistently sit in at the center spot. They have done a great job but the lack of consistence has hurt.

On the series with North Texas:

It's been a battle. You look at some of the other conference teams, FIU and FAU, it comes down to one touchdown but North Texas it's a battle. Two years ago we went there, the last game of the season after a really tough season with heart breaking losses and they ran over us. Last year they came in here and we were able to execute pretty well and had success against them. It has always been a struggle, they have strength in their linebackers, [Zach] Orr is a really good player. Playing North Texas has always been a tough game, they are fighting team that will play to the end and so are we.

Redshirt Senior LB Stephen Roberts

On Kevin Byard's play:

He is a big contributor to our defensive turnovers. We love him. He is a great player with a great attitude. We look to him as a leader on the defense. He is a really big part of where we stand on takeovers defensively.

On playing North Texas:

They are more of a passing team with good strong backs and big tight ends so they like to get out to the wide side of the field.

On the familiarity with North Texas:

We always have to be cautious and can't expect them to do something because of what they did last year. From what we have seen from the previous games, it looks like the same scheme for the most part, little differences here and there. We are working on that scheme and we will be ready as of game time.

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