Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines Archive
The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders have reached the bye week. Only three weeks into the season, one could say it’s a bit early for a bye week. However, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for MTSU.
The Blue Raiders have piled up the injuries. The Blue Raiders are 1-2. The Blue Raiders are getting ready to begin conference play against the defending C-USA champions, the Florida Atlantic Owls.
The bye week is an opportunity to capitalize on mistakes, health and to improve schemes in all phases of the game. The offense has sputtered to begin the season, despite the array of weapons for quarterback Brent Stockstill. The defense has struggled to prevent big plays, and tackling can still be improved and has been an emphasis for the past two weeks.
Albeit, the team has opened up against two SEC opponents on the road in their first three games. That is a tall task for any university, much less a smaller school like MTSU.
However, there is no difference in preparation when facing off against any team, according to head coach Rick Stockstill.
“It’s the same urgency every week,” Stockstill said. “It doesn’t matter who you play.”
Preparing the same for every opponent is the right mindset. With that attitude, the team will never take a week off or an opponent for granted.
However, there is no doubt that conference games have more meaning and impact on the future of the Blue Raiders season, especially when MTSU opens up conference play against FAU.
“These first three games, you’re really playing to make a name for yourself, but these conference games show who you really are and how you are as a team,” said safety Reed Blankenship.
FAU’s offense is a high powered scoring machine. The Owls averaged over 40 points a game against C-USA opponents last season. The Owls operate a fast paced offense and run a lot of no huddle.
“They want us to suffer as a defense because they run up-tempo on offense,” Blankenship said. “We have to beat them with our conditioning.”
The offense will need to regroup as well throughout the bye week. The Blue Raiders have a plethora of running backs that have been banged up throughout the first three games. There have been players converted to other positions due to injuries, and key players have missed time.
Wide receiver C.J. Windham was hurt during the UT-Martin matchup and was listed on the injury report prior to the Georgia game. Nevertheless, Windham stuck it out and played against the Bulldogs.
“It’s just a high-ankle sprain, but its nothing you can’t recover from in a couple of weeks,” Windham said. “I’ll try to be back as soon as possible.”
For Windham, he is aware of how critical the bye week is to turn the Blue Raider season in the right direction. The team is primed for a big season with Brent Stockstill healthy and back at the helm at the quarterback position. After Stockstill returned from injury last season, the Blue Raiders went 4-1, with their only loss coming in triple overtime against Western Kentucky on the road.
“We’re definitely using this bye week to stay in the training room, get as much treatment as possible and to get back as healthy as possible,” Windham said. “This is our ‘edge’ week. It’s our week to work and get a step up on FAU.”
MTSU will have another week of preparation before returning to Floyd Stadium on Sep. 29. It will be the first game in a journey to reach a long-awaited destination for the Blue Raiders.
“Our goal since December has been to win the conference,” Windham said.
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