MTSU faces numerous obstacles Friday night when it travels to Provo, Utah, to face BYU.
The Blue Raiders (3-1, 1-0 in Conference USA) will be facing a team that is off to just a 1-2 start, but an opponent that is dangerous as evidenced by whipping Texas 40-21 and racking up 500 yards rushing in the process.
Last week, the Blue Raiders played in extreme heat at Florida Atlantic, and some 4,000 miles later, must prepare to deal with the high altitude and thin mountain air.
Additionally, BYU is comprised of a very experienced and older players than the Blue Raiders are used to facing each week.
“This is a big week with BYU. It’s a great opportunity for us,” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. “I told our guys this is the best team we’ve played so far this year. They’re a very physical, sound football team. I have a lot of respect for the way they play the game.
They play hard in all three phases, so this is going to be a great challenge for us.
“Looking through their roster, they’ve already got 50 guys that have already done their two-year mission. It’s a team with a lot of players that are 24- 25- years old. We’re going to go against grown men in this game. You can tell how physical they are. They’ve got guys in there who graduated from high school in 2006. This is a seasoned, veteran team that plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. They remind me of us. They play hard, they’re physical and tough and they don’t give up. To me, it’s fun watching them because it reminds me of what our team does.
Stockstill added that he won’t make a big deal of the high altitude or short week and will treat the game similar as he did to the heat at FAU last week.
“It is what it is. We can’t make it a shorter trip, we can’t play it on Saturday, and we can’t lower the altitude,” he said.
“You have to go play the game. I did the research over the summer on the altitude. I talked to the team about it. We’ll hydrate. It’s the best we can do. I’m not going to make a big deal about it.
We’ll hydrate and take care of our bodies. Then you go out there and play the game. Yeah, it’s tough to go down there, come back and play on the road again on a short week. That’s why you talk in advance to prepare your body.”
Blue Raider senior quarterback Logan Kilgore echoed Stockstill’s sentiments.
“It is what it is. You’re not going to be able to air condition the practice field,” Kilgore said. “You’re not going to be able heat up the practice field to adjust for that. You take the same
approach, hydrate and take care of your body every day. I know we will fly out there and be able to run around a little bit to get adjusted.
“(The short week) bumps everything up. Instead of having Monday as our off day, Monday becomes Tuesday and today becomes our Wednesday practice and tomorrow will be our Thursday practice. Coach Stockstill and the coaches continue to reiterate that to us. Today is a Wednesday even though it’s Tuesday. Your mind just bumps everything up. Maybe, because I have done it so much, but I don’t really find any difference with a short week.”
BYU averages more than 300 yards rushing a game, while it gives up just 123. The Cougars are led by quarterback Taysom Hill, who averages 8.3 yards a carry and has rushed for 400 yards and four touchdowns.
“Their running game is similar to a lot of what you see,” Stockstill said. “There’s a lot of predetermined quarterback runs, there’s the zone read stuff and there’s the power game with both the running backs and the quarterback.
“It’s nothing out of the unusual. Their quarterback is a very dynamic runner. Whenever there’s a quarterback as effective at running the ball as him, it adds another element to your offense.”
MTSU is a three-touchdown underdog on Friday, which doesn’t faze the Blue Raiders, Kilgore said.
“I wouldn’t like to make a habit of it,” Kilgore said of the underdog status. “It is just another thing that you deal with. I think we have been favored in three of the first four games.
“It’s not like FAU spotted us seven points. They still had to work. I am sure they (BYU) are saying that three touchdown favorites do not mean a thing. I feel the same way. At the end of the day, they are going to have to score on us and we are going to have to score on them.”
This is the first meeting between the Blue Raiders and Cougars. BYU will visit MTSU next season.