Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Middle Tennessee forgets Maryland, looks toward North Texas
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
Middle Tennessee isn’t reveling in last week’s win over Maryland.
While it showed great effort to come from behind and hit the game-winning field goal for the 32-31 win, the Blue Raiders learned last year that one great win doesn’t make a season.
Last year, Middle Tennessee defeated Maryland 24-14 and finished the season 5-7.
“We talked to our team about not being complacent,” coach Rick Stockstill said during his Tuesday press conference. “We are not good enough to be complacent. We made enough mistakes against Maryland to last for a long time. We have to get those mistakes corrected. I like the attitude from our team and the attitude from our upperclassmen. I do not see them cakewalking through this week of practice and expecting to win.”
Middle Tennessee opens Sun Belt Conference play this week against a North Texas team than is better than the Blue Raiders have seen in past years. The Mean Green are 1-2, but one of those losses came in overtime and the other was to No. 4 Alabama. They rank first in the conference in pass defense, which will test the Blue Raiders’ spread passing scheme that ranks 18th in the country. Although North Texas’ offense isn’t as potent as it has been in the past, especially with starting quarterback Riley Dodge nursing a separated shoulder, it still has the playmakers and scheme to put points up in conference play.
“We have played other teams that spread the field and throw a lot and it has been a close game,” Stockstill said. “A lot depends on the defenses and how they are playing and the pressure they apply to the quarterback. You hope it is not a shoot out. You hope our defense plays well and we score a lot of points, but we are prepared for that.”
Middle Tennessee is one of two teams in the Sun Belt with a winning record. It and Louisiana-Lafayette both defeated automatic qualifying teams to get to that point and both have asserted themselves as teams to be reckoned with in the conference.
While much of the preseason focus was on teams such as Troy, Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, the Blue Raiders and Ragin’ Cajuns have been carrying the banner for the conference through the first few weeks.
But with Sun Belt play starting and one guaranteed bowl spot given to the winner of the conference, what each team did in the nonconference doesn’t really matter.
“We are one game at a time,” Stockstill said. “That is our goal, to win conference games. This is the first one. The Maryland game is in the past. Once we watched film that was it. We have not talked about that game since. We are focused on North Texas and will be ready for those guys. That is the most important game on our schedule right now.”