The last time the Blue Raiders played, they lost 49-7 at then-No. 3 Georgia. With a welcomed open date last weekend, Middle Tennessee’s players are rested and ready for conference play to begin.
“The first three games took a toll on us from a physical standpoint,” said head coach Rick Stockstill at his weekly press conference. “You come off playing the No. 2 team in the country, that’s hard to do.”
The Blue Raiders took three days off from practice last week and resumed Monday morning. “We came back with a great mindset, fresh mentality, and (we’re) ready to go,” continued Stockstill.
With Lane Kiffin’s high-powered Florida Atlantic offense coming to the ‘Boro Saturday night, being rested and ready is a priority for Middle Tennessee.
Junior Running Back Devin Singletary, the 2017 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, is where it all starts for Florida Atlantic. Coach Stockstill called him “the best running back in this conference.” In fact, Singletary has scored a touchdown in 17 straight games.
It will be a chore for this Middle Tennessee defense to stop Singletary, who is averaging 85 rushing yards per game this season. However, Singletary is not Florida Atlantic’s only weapon. Quarterback Chris Robison, wide receiver Jovon Durante, and tight end Harrison Bryant have all had offensive success this season.
While the Owls have plenty of playmakers, it’s their offensive tempo that creates the most havoc for opposing defenses.
According to Coach Stockstill, the key to slowing down FAU’s fast-paced offense is defensive success on first down.
“If we can have success on first down defensively, that always has a tendency to slow down an offense a little bit," the head coach said.
FAU head coach and offensive architect, Lane Kiffin is no stranger to the Volunteer State. He left the state’s flagship university nearly nine years ago with an angry mob and burning mattresses in his wake, but the former SEC lightning rod has found quick success in his first head coaching gig since he was fired at Southern California, the program he left Tennessee to run, in 2013.
"He's done a great job at FAU. A lot of respect for him as a football coach,” Coach Stockstill said. This will be Kiffin’s first game as a head coach in the state of Tennessee since he left UT in January 2010.
While Middle Tennessee’s work is cut out for them this weekend, the Blue Raiders have a great opportunity to get ahead in conference play. This is the first conference game of the season for both programs. The winner would have a one-game advantage in Conference USA’s East division.
“These [conference games] are the ones that carry a bunch of weight,” said Coach Stockstill. “This is when it starts.”
Saturday’s game is set for a 6 p.m. kickoff. It will be the annual blackout game for MTSU.