After a bye week, Raiders ready to get back on track

Travel to play USM Saturday at 2:30 PM

November 22, 2013 · @MTAthletics

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Novembers have recently been good months to be a Blue Raider, with late-season win streaks propelling Middle Tennessee into bowl games under Head Coach Rick Stockstill in Detroit, New Orleans, and Mobile.

With a 6-4 record and a 4-2 mark in Conference USA, the Blue Raiders will travel to Hattiesburg, MS on Saturday to battle Southern Miss (0-10, 0-6 in C-USA). MT can solidify its chances to get one of the bigger bowls of the six that have Conference USA tie-in's with a victory.

The game will be televised live on CSS, with Matt Stewart (pxp) and Chuck Oliver (analysis) in the booth and Hannah Chalker reporting from the sidelines. Veteran MT announcer Chip Walters will be calling the action, with former Middle Tennessee and NFL quarterback Kelly Holcomb offering color commentary on the Blue Raider Network (BRN).

The game may be heard live on WGNS Radio (1450 AM, as well as FM affiliates 89.5, 97.5/102.5, 100.5 and101.9.)

Middle Tennessee will take a three-game win streak to Hattiesburg, having beaten both Marshall (51-49) and UAB (24-21) with scores on the last play of the game, and then disposing of FIU two weeks ago, 48-0.

Despite the fact that Southern Miss is winless in ten games this season, Stockstill is never one to leave a stone unturned. He had Blue Raider Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix, who played and coached at USM; address the team about the rich heritage of the Golden Eagles football program.

If that didn't get the attention of the MT players, then Thursday night's televised C-USA game surely must have. Underdog UAB hosted Rice, who is leading C-USA's Western Division, and took the heavily favored Owls to overtime before losing. Middle Tennessee also struggled at UAB two weeks ago, kicking a field goal on the last play of the game to get the win.

"Southern Miss is a really good football team that is hungry for a win," noted Stockstill. "They have struggled with a freshman quarterback for most of the season, but he is getting better and better each game. They have a couple of defensive linemen that can play anywhere. They are big, they are talented and they can run."

Turnovers have plagued the Golden Eagles this season, and are the biggest factor in their 0-10 record.

"It is going to be a physical game, and Southern Miss has always been that way," Stockstill pointed out. "Our players have watched film on them because of the open date, and we know how explosive and talented they are. They are a good football team that hasn't put it all together yet."

Stockstill has been pleased with the play of his own team the last month, noting that they have established their own identity as being both a physically and mentally tough football team that plays with tremendous effort, that never gives up, that never quits, and that never flinches.

"At this point in the season, that is what you have to rely on. Everybody has injuries, and we have had more than most. You just have to fight through the pain and the fatigue. That is why coaches say it is 'more about us than our opponent'. You worry about yourself, and how you prepare for each game."

One area of special concern for the Blue Raiders is the running back situation. Sophomore Jordan Parker, the team's leading rusher, is still a question mark. Junior Reggie Whatley is also hobbled, so the Raiders will likely go with Shane Tucker, Drayton Calhoun and Corey Carmichael. Carmichael, a fullback who has caught two scoring passes, picked up his first rushing touchdown against FIU, dragging defenders into the end zone.

Southern Miss may remember the Carmichael name. It was linebacker Danny Carmichael, Corey's older brother, who intercepted a pass late in the New Orleans Bowl and returned it inside the five yard line to seal the victory for Middle Tennessee. It is the only other time that MT and Southern Miss have met in football.

Saturday's game will be the last road game of the regular season for the Blue Raiders, who will close out the 2013 regular season next week by hosting UTEP in a 2:45 PM clash. It will be the first meeting between the two schools.

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