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Key November stretch starts Saturday at UAB

Kickoff set for Noon in Birmingham

November 1, 2013 · @MTAthletics

BIRMINGHAM - With a renewed spring in their step, and a big 51-49 win over Conference USA Eastern Division-leading Marshall last week, Middle Tennessee will begin a four-game November stretch that will have major implications on postseason play.

The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Net, with Mike Morgan calling the action, Brian Baldinger adding color analysis and JC Pearson reporting from the sidelines. Locally, the game will be shown on SportSouth along with the following other outlets:

FOX SPORTS ARIZONA
FOX SPORTS DETROIT
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA
FOX SPORTS MIDWEST
FOX SPORTS NORTH
FOX SPORTS OHIO
FOX SPORTS OKLAHOMA
FOX SPORTS SOUTHWEST
FOX SPORTS WEST
FOX SPORTS WISCONSIN (PLUS)
SPORTSOUTH
MASN 2
FOX COLLEGE SPORTS ATLANTIC

For the Blue Raider Network, veteran announcer Chip Walters will handle the play-by-play, with former Blue Raider and NFL quarterback Kelly Holcomb providing expert analysis. BRN affiliates include 89.5 AM, 102.5/97.5 FM, and WGNS 1450 AM.

Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill, at his news conference following the win over Marshall, noted that his team had fought its way back into the conference race with four games to go.

"We still have a lot to play for going into November. As they say, you remember November. All we are focused on is this week, this game, and playing our best game against UAB."

Stockstill pointed to the weekend off prior to the Marshall game last Thursday night, giving his team time to get healthier, and to get some players back in the lineup for more plays. One of those areas was the nearly-decimated offensive line, which will also be a key against UAB.

"That was one of the biggest differences," pointed out Stockstill. "We had closer to a full group of guys playing against Marshall than we started the season with."

Another reason was the play, and the leadership, of red-shirt senior quarterback Logan Kilgore. With a healthy shoulder, Kilgore took every snap and guided the Blue Raiders to the win. He threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns, powered his way into the end zone from a yard out for a fifth score, and directed his team on a game-winning drive, culminating with a nine-yard scoring pass to his roommate, Tavarres Jefferson as time expired.

For his efforts, Kilgore was named Conference USA's Offensive Player of the Week.

Kilgore and his teammates will need to be ready for another shootout on Saturday in Birmingham.

Stockstill pointed out that the Blazers have played much better than their 2-5 record, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

"They have a really big offensive line that features two tight ends. They have two very good running backs (Jordan Howard and Darrin Reaves), and a sophomore quarterback (Austin Brown) that started last year as a freshman.

Howard and Reaves rank 5th and 7th respectively in C-USA rushing. Middle Tennessee's Jordan Parker is 6th.

Not only is the UAB offensive line big, they have not had the injuries that the Blue Raider line has endured all season. In fact, the same five offensive linemen have started every game for the Blazers in 2013. That is one of the reasons that UAB has two rushers in the top seven in the league.

The Blue Raider secondary will have to keep a close watch on Blazer wide receiver Jamarcus Nelson. Nelson has averaged an incredible 19.1 yards per reception throughout his career, having caught 65 passes for 1,243 yards.

The Blue Raider defensive coaches have preached all season about getting off the field on third down, and how well they can stop Brown and Nelson will be a big factor on Saturday.

Defensively, the Blue Raiders are coming of age. They have forced 22 turnovers thru eight games, which ranks 5th nationally. Over the last 20 games, the MT defense has come up with 20 interceptions, 11 of them by seven different players this season. Middle Tennessee also ranks 3rd in Conference USA in sacks with 19. Leighton Gasque is 4th all-time at MT with 14 career sacks.

Sophomore linebacker T.T. Barber ranks 7th nationally in tackles per game (11.3) and is 4th in solo stops with 6.9 per contest. Red-shirt sophomore safety Kevin Byard, in 20 career games, has forced or gained ten turnovers (7 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble return).

Senior punter Josh Davis enters the UAB game with a career average of 41.9. He has placed 51 punts inside the opponent's 20 yard line.

Stockstill feels his team has its back to the wall, that at 4-4 and 2-2 in Conference USA, there is very little margin for error.

"We have to stay hungry, keep competing every snap, and go play a good football game against a very good football team in UAB."

Middle Tennessee's next game will be at home on Nov. 9th against FIU. It will be the annual "Salute to Armed Services/ Veterans Day". Kickoff is set for 3 PM.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.