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Blue Raiders fall to Navy in Armed Forces Bowl

Sophomore T.T. Barber tabbed team MVP

December 30, 2013 · @MTAthletics

FORT WORTH, Texas - Middle Tennessee could not slow down the vaunted Navy rushing attack, as the Blue Raiders fell 24-6 to the Midshipmen in the 2013 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Monday.

The Blue Raiders (8-5) kept it nip-and-tuck for three quarters until Navy (9-4) added a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. A pair of Cody Clark field goals in the first half made it a 10-6 contest in favor of the United States Naval Academy. The Midshipmen then used a pair of rushing touchdowns from Kenan Reynolds and DeBrandon Sanders in the fourth to seal the win.

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Sophomore linebacker T.T. Barber was tabbed the Blue Raiders MVP after recovering two Navy fumbles and recording a strip. Barber finished the bowl game with seven stops and 1.0 tackles-for-loss. The Colquitt, Ga., product finished the year with 119 stops, the most since Roosevelt Colvard's 120 in 1986.

Both teams were close in total yardage with Navy holding a 385 to 309 edge. The Midshipmen rushed for 366 yards and throwing for just 19. There was balanced approach from the Raiders. MT threw for 218 and rushed for 91. Navy lost a pair of fumbles, while the MT threw two interceptions. Middle Tennessee tied an Armed Forces Bowl record with 14 passing first downs. The Naval Academy broke several records including 21 rushing first downs.

Quarterback Logan Kilgore completed his Blue Raider career by completing 19-of-32 with 218 yards and two interceptions. Kilgore amassed 2,507 yards this season and totaled 7,854 in his career for second all-time at Middle Tennessee. The 106 yards and nine receptions by Kyle Griswould set a new school bowl game record. Tavarres Jefferson reeled in five catches for 79 yards.

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On the rushing front, Smryna's Jeremiah Bryson earned 43 yards on nine rushes to lead the Raiders. Navy's Reynolds earned bowl game MVP accolades with 86 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

MT was led defensively by Kevin Byard, who earned a school bowl game record 14 tackles. Stephen Roberts also chipped in with 10 stops. 

Navy opened the game with a 59-yard drive that lasted five minutes. Keenan Reynolds scored with a three-yard keeper to put the Midshipmen up 7-0 early.

The Raiders used 13 plays on their opening drive to score a career-long 43-yard field goal from Clark, cutting MT's deficit to 7-3. The Blue Raiders held the Midshipmen to a Nick Sloan 32-yard field goal with 14:16 left in the second quarter.

Short field position helped the Raiders score on their second possession with a 24-field goal from Clark. Clark finished the year with eight consecutive made field goals.

With less than a minute remaining in the half, Barber forced a strip and recovered the ball deep inside Navy territory. However, MT could not capitalize.

In the first half, the Naval Academy scampered 144 yards on 35 plays. MT had 132 yards with 84 of those coming from the air. Kilgore finished the first half 8-of-15 for 84 yards. Bryson led

In the second half, Barber once again found himself in prime position to pick up a fumble recovery. The sophomore found the ball at the Navy eight yardline. Roberts was credited with the strip. However, MT could not capitalize on the play.

Reynolds capped an 11-play drive to put the Midshipmen up by double digits early in the fourth quarter. Navy capitalized on a Blue Raider interception, turning in a 41-yard Sanders touchdown two plays later.

Middle Tennessee closed out a successful 2013 campaign that saw MT finish the year with back-to-back eight or more wins since 1992. The Raiders went 6-2 in their inaugural season in Conference USA and earned a bowl berth for the fourth time under head coach Rick Stockstill.

NOTES

CAPTAINS: Today's game captains were Jimmy Staten, Logan Kilgore, Josh Walker, and Craig Allen.

GRISWOULD HAS CAREER DAY: Senior Kyle Griswould ended his Blue Raider career on a high note by setting a career-high in receptions. Griswould had nine catches for 106 yards to better his previous high of seven set on four other occasions.

33: With two forced fumbles against Navy, Middle Tennessee finished with 33 forced turnovers for the season. That figure matches the most under Rick Stockstill with the 2007 squad.

TACKLING MACHINE: Sophomore T.T. Barber finished with seven tackles gainst Navy to give him 119 on the season. That total ranks as the most by a Blue Raider since Roosevelt Colvard collected 120 in 1986.

BIG DAY FOR ROBERTS: LB Stephen Roberts enjoyed a productive day in his last game as a Blue Raider. The senior collected a career-best 10 tackles, including eight in the first half. Roberts also forced a fumble.

CLARK STREAK: Redshirt freshman kicker Cody Clark connected on two first half field goals to give him 12 on the season. Clark has now hit eight straight three-pointers which equals the second longest streak in school history. The longest is 12 by Alan Gendreau.

QUICK HITTERS: PK Cody Clark hit a career long 43-yard field goal in the first quarter and it was his seventh straight made three-pointer ... WR Kyle Griswould made his team-leading 28th straight start today ... Kyle Griswould has now caught at least one pass in 35 straight games which ranks as the second longest streak in school history ... DT Jimmy Staten, P Josh Davis, and OL Josh Walker all played in their 49th career games which is tops on the team ... T.T. Barber forced his third fumble of the year to stop a Navy scoring drive in the second quarter ... The attendance of 39,246 was the second largest for a Blue Raider bowl game ... The 2006 Motor City Bowl had 54,113 in attendance.

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