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Raiders eye 9-win season, bowl victory

Face Navy on Monday in Armed Forces Bowl

December 29, 2013 · @MTAthletics

FORT WORTH - Playing in their fourth bowl game in the Rick Stockstill era, Middle Tennessee will try to even their overall bowl record to 4-4, and become only the second Blue Raider team to win nine games in a single season in the last 22 years.

In addition to playing before a national television audience in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, the game will also be broadcast over the Blue Raider Network with the veteran BRN team of announcer Chip Walters and color analyst Kelly Holcomb doing the honors. BRN affiliates for the Armed Forces Bowl will be 102.5/97.5 The Game, WGNS 1450 AM, 100.5 FM, 101.9 FM, and WMOT 89.5 FM.

The game will also be broadcast nationally on ESPN Radio and the Armed Forces Network.

Navy and Middle Tennessee have had very similar seasons. The Blue Raiders, in their first season playing in Conference USA, had a tough stretch in the middle of the year, but closed the season with five consecutive wins to post an 8-4 record and earn a bid to one of Conference USA's six bowl tie-ins. Navy closed their season with a winning streak as well, culminating in a rout of archrival Army in their annual battle. Navy also finished with an 8-4 record.

The Blue Raiders will have their hands full on Monday trying to slow down Navy's potent triple option attack. The Midshipmen are led by Antioch, TN, native Keenan Reynolds who has scored 29 touchdowns to pace a Navy team playing in its 10th bowl game in 11 years.

MT will counter with a defense that ranks fifth nationally in forced turnovers with 31, is tied for 33rd nationally in red zone defense, and is 27th in interceptions. The unit is led by linebacker T.T. Barber and safety Kevin Byard.

Barber, a first team all-conference pick, leads the team with 112 tackles to go with three interceptions, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Byard, mysteriously left off the all-conference team, has enjoyed a remarkable season. The sophomore owns a personal-best 92 tackles, leads the team with five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), and also has five pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Offensively, the Blue Raiders have been on a roll during its five-game winning streak. During that time, the unit has averaged 42.6 points, averaged 523.4 yards and converted on 51 percent of its third down plays.

Running the show is record-setting signal-caller Logan Kilgore, who is the school's all-time leader in touchdown passes and 200-yard passing games. Kilgore benefits from a rushing attack that averages 208 yards a game and has seen five different players top the 100-yard mark.

Kilgore's favorite targets in the passing game are seniors Tavarres Jefferson and Kyle Griswould. Both are ranked in the top 10 on Middle Tennessee's all-time receptions list with Jefferson fourth and Griswould seventh. Jefferson caught the game-winner against Marshall to start the five-game win streak and Griswould owns at least one reception in 34 straight games.

Kickoff is set for 10:46 AM Monday from TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium.

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