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Raiders enter bye week before hosting Marshall

Blackout game featured nationally on FS1 next Thursday

October 15, 2013 · @MTAthletics

Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill

On the bye week:

We're on fall break this week and don't play, which comes at a very opportune time. After four weeks in August and seven weeks playing, we need some time to get some guys healthy. We need to get some rest and get away from football for a little bit before coming back for the second half of this season rejuvenated and ready to figure this thing out.

We've got Marshall coming in, who's a really good football team and in first place right now. Everybody knows about their quarterback, who was conference player of the year last year and is a really dynamic player. He's got great receivers around him, so they're going to come in and throw it around a bunch. It will be a great challenge for our defense.

Defensively, they're vastly improved from last year. They're not giving up nearly as many points or yards. The changes they've made on defense have really paid off for them.

On the team's mindset:

I have no doubt about the character of this team. We'll meet tonight when they return from fall break. But I have no doubt of the resiliency of this football team. Their toughness and competitive spirit will not waver. Are you going to win the conference? It's going to be tough, as you're two back with five to go. If you're a baseball team, you would still say you've got a chance.

We've got a chance, but we need some help. There's a lot out there from a bowl standpoint. There's still a lot of meat on the bone, and still a lot to play for. I have no doubt about the attitude this team will come back with this week.

On the new receivers:

They need to continue to do what they're doing. I think Terry Pettis is a guy who has to get more involved in the game. Every time we throw him the ball, he catches it. I think he can have a bigger role in this offense. Chris Perkins continues to get better each week. He's improving. He had five catches last week. Devin Clarke got hurt in practice last week and missed a couple days, but I think he's a guy who can help us. They just have to continue to work and compete.

On the issues with the kicking game:

Our kickoff coverage was better last week. We had the punt return that hurt us. Josh [Davis] punted the ball a heck of a lot better last week. We've got to pay more attention to the details. You have to stay in your lanes, because when one person gets out of their lane, it opens up a seam in the coverage. We've got to improve, there's no doubt about that.

On improving during the bye week:

We've got to get healthy. That's the biggest concern right now. We've got to be able to run the ball better than we have, no matter what offensive line and backs we put out there. We've tackled well defensively up until this game. We didn't tackle well Saturday against North Texas. We looked a step slow, and we looked like a tired football team, even though we did play better in the second half defensively. We need to continue to get better defensively on third downs. I think those three issues, and improving some issues in the kicking game, have to get better in the open date.

On the Blackout game:

I always tell them, the uniform isn't going to score a point or keep them out of the end zone. They like the black uniforms. They get excited. The trend in college football is different uniforms, different helmets and that sort of thing. I think it plays a great role in recruiting. I think it plays a great role in your team getting excited.

On Marshall QB Rakeem Cato:

He's not afraid to make any throw. He'll throw deep a bunch. They'll challenge our secondary. He's athletic enough to buy some time and extend plays. He'll hit receivers down the field on scramble plays. He's a better runner than he gets credit for. He's got some good, dynamic receivers to throw to that make things happen after the catch. He's got a big arm, he's accurate and he's not afraid to take shots down the field.

On S Kevin Byard being one of the team's leading tacklers:

The way defenses are played now, your safeties are so involved in the run game, helping in run support. If you asked me five years ago if I thought that was an issue, I'd be concerned that our linebackers aren't making the necessary plays. As active as our safeties are in the run game, it's not surprising.

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