Raiders host UTEP Saturday on Senior Day

Look for 5th straight win; Await bowl bid

November 29, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO - Middle Tennessee's surging football team will close its first regular season in Conference USA on Saturday afternoon on Horace Jones Field against UTEP. Kickoff is set for 2:45 CST.

The Blue Raiders, 7-4 overall and 5-2 in Conference USA, bring a four-game winning streak into the game, and will be playing for their 8th overall win of the season, as well as a tie for second place in C-USA's tough Eastern Division.

The game will be televised live on MyTV 30, and broadcast live over the Blue Raider Network (BRN) on 1450 AM, 89.5 FM, and 97.5/102.5 FM. Veteran broadcaster Chip Walters will be calling the action, with former Blue Raider and NFL quarterback Kelly Holcomb offering his expert insight in the simulcast of the game.

With the excitement generated among MT fans by an assured bowl bid, and the possibility of back-to-back 8-win seasons, Saturday will nevertheless be a sad day in one respect.

The football program will say goodbye to 24 seniors who have represented Middle Tennessee well over the last half-decade, and have made the transition from the Sun Belt Conference to C-USA an impressive one. These young men will be recognized in pre-game activities beginning at 2:27 PM Saturday.

Over the past five years, these senior players have been bowl-eligible four times, put together the first back-to-back seven win seasons in 18 years, played on television 49 times, produced a 10-win season and been responsible for the biggest win improvement in the country.

They are LB Craig Allen, LB Roderic Blunt, RB Drayton Calhoun, OL Lance Campbell, FB Corey Carmichael, TE Jacob Corbaley, P Josh Davis, S Reginald Farmer, DB Kenneth Gilstrap, OL Jesse Grisham, WR Kyle Griswould, OL Jadareius Hamlin, WR Tavarres Jefferson, LB Justin Jones, CB Herbert King, QB Logan Kilgore, DE Dearco Nolan, C Nick Nunez, RB William Pratcher, LB Stephen Roberts, CB Sammy Seamster, OL Matt Sprouse, DL Jimmy Staten and OL Josh Walker.

This will be the first time that Middle Tennessee and UTEP have met in football.

Coach Rick Stockstill cautioned his team about overlooking the Miners, despite their 2-9 record.

"They played well in the early part of the season, losing to New Mexico in overtime, and then beating New Mexico State 42-21," pointed out Stockstill. "Then they got their quarterback hurt, and have struggled with a freshman (Mark Leftwich) at that position, but he has been making steady improvement and played very well the past couple of weeks."

Safety Kevin Byard and linebacker T.T. Barber, both sophomores, continue to lead Conference USA in the national rankings for pass interceptions and solo tackles, respectively.

For the Blue Raiders, the four-game win streak has been a combination of a smothering, opportunistic defense, and an offense that has used a much-improved running game to take the pressure off of senior quarterback Logan Kilgore. In Kilgore's career, he has established records for most touchdown passes (51) and 200-yard passing games (19), while amassing 7,306 passing yards. He could become the first Blue Raider signal-caller in history to throw for 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Kilgore's passing has opened opposing defenses to allow the Blue Raider ground game to become a potent weapon as well. MT is averaging 265.5 yards per game over the last four outings.

Defensively, the Blue Raiders have turned up the heat in their pressure defense. The defense has forced 30 turnovers, ranking 3rd nationally in that category, and are also 3rd in fumble recoveries with 15.

Byard is the NCAA'a active career leader in interception return yards with 326, and ranks second in interceptions per game. He has nine career picks, including five this season. He returned an interception 51 yards for a score against Southern Miss last week.

Barber has been at or near the top in solo tackles most of the season, and currently ranks 12th nationally.

After Saturday's regular-season finale, the Blue Raiders will await word from Conference USA officials on what bowl game MT will play in. No announcements will likely be made on bowl assignments until after the C-USA Championship game on Saturday, December 7th. Please watch GoBlueRaiders.com for the latest information.

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