Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Blue Raiders are headed to Honolulu to take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the 15th annual Hawaii Bowl. The MTSU football team finished their regular season in a shootout win at home over Florida Atlantic 77-56. The victory pushed them to an 8-4 overall and solidified their postseason standing. Today, they found out where they would play their bowl game.
This will be the second straight year the Raiders will play their bowl game in an island paradise, as they took on Western Michigan in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. The Blue Raiders took an early lead but the defense missed players like T.T. Barber and Chris Hale, resulting in a lack of defensive stops. The game was tight, but the Broncos captured the victory 45-31.
MTSU has a 1-4 record in their five bowl games, winning a 42-32 match-up against Southern Mississippi in the New Orleans bowl in 2009. The Blue Raiders are looking to end a slump of bowl futility, losing their last three bowls by an average of 15 points.
In 2013, they fell to Army 24-6 in the Armed Forces Bowl. They lost to Miami(Ohio) 35-21 in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
This time, they will take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, a team that went 6-7 in the Mountain West west division. They are led sophomore quarterback Dru Brown, who’s threw for 2214 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Seven of those touchdowns were caught by Marcus Kemp, who tallied 1036 yards on 70 catches.
Hawaii relied heavily on the run game throughout the year, Diocemy Saint Juste’s 836 yards and Steven Lakalaka’s 12 touchdowns. They are coached by Nick Rolovich, a first-year head coach. Rolovich spent time at Hawaii from 2008-2011 as the quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator before going to Nevada for the same job.
Hawaii has played in the Hawaii Bowl six times, splitting the matchups 3-3. They haven’t fared well in the losses, losing by an average of 21 points. The wins have been somewhat close, as they’ve won by an average of two touchdowns.
In their last trip to the Hawaii Bowl, the Rainbow Warriors lost to Tulsa 62-35 on Christmas Eve in 2010.
The biggest question for the Blue Raiders will be regarding the availability of Brent Stockstill. The record-breaking quarterback broke his collarbone on a sack in a game against Texas-San Antonio. Backup John Urzua stepped in and led the team to a 2-1 record to close out the regular season.
Urzua took a hit in the finale against Florida Atlantic and left the game with a concussion. The Blue Raiders ran the Wildcat offense and produced their best offensive game of the year, rushing for almost 500 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Richie James put up the best game of his career, catching four passes for 120 yards and carrying the ball 22 times for 207 yards. James scored four total touchdowns, three rushing and one receiving.
Running back I’Tavius Mathers also ran the ball well, rushing it 18 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns of his own. He broke the single-season rushing yard record at MTSU, tallying 1504 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. The team will lean on him to be that productive against the Rainbow Warriors.
The Hawaii Bowl is set for December 24th at Aloha Stadium; kick-off is set for 8 p.m. EST.
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