Photo by Brent Beerends / MT Athletic Communications
With the season-opening game against the Vanderbilt Commodores just a few days away, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are preparing for the start of what could be a great season.
These are two teams that are familiar with each other as they have met in each of the last two regular seasons. In 2015, the Commodores came to Murfreesboro for the Blue Raiders’ Homecoming game in what was a defensive showdown for the in-state rivals. After taking a late 13-3 lead, Middle Tennessee gave up two long, rushing touchdowns to the Commodores, and Vanderbilt left Murfreesboro with a stunning 17-13 victory.
The Blue Raiders looked to return the favor last season when they traveled to Nashville for a Week 2 showdown. After starting the game strong and holding a 10-5 lead going into the second quarter, a lightning delay halted all momentum for the Blue Raiders and gave the Commodores a chance to regain their composure. They used the break to fix their mistakes, and when all was said and done, the Blue Raiders returned home with a 47-24 defeat.
This opening game is a chance for both teams to get their seasons off to a good start and continue building on a budding rivalry. For more insight on the Commodores, Sidelines Sports Editor Rusty Ellis spoke with Vanderbilt Hustler Sports Editor Cutler Klein to get his thoughts on what could be an extremely competitive game on Saturday night.
Sidelines: Ralph Webb is obviously someone that has hurt MT in the past, but who is someone that most fans don’t know that could have a breakout game for Vandy?
Klein: Watch out for Trent Sherfield at wide receiver. The senior has looked strong going all the way back to spring ball. If Vanderbilt can establish the run early, then they’ll be able to run play action and get the ball deep to Sherfield, whose hands are as quick as his feet. Sure, Webb will be the focal point of the Vanderbilt offense, but if he does his job well, Sherfield should have a strong game as well.
Kyle Shurmur got off to a slow start in last year’s game but rallied the team and forged ahead strong after the first quarter. Do you expect him to be the starting quarterback again, or is there a new player in the fold? If it is Shurmur, what should fans expect of his performance, both for this game and the year?
MT has had a tough time running the ball the last two meetings between the teams. Is the emphasis on defense for the Commodores still on the run, or is it more geared toward forcing the Raiders to run the ball with I’Tavius Mathers gone?
Richie James had one of the best games of his career last season with 14 catches against Vanderbilt, how much is the defense focusing on not just him, but the entire Blue Raider aerial assault?
What is the overall expectation regarding Oren Burks, for both the game on Saturday and the entire season?
What is your prediction on the game?