|The Blue Raiders open the 2011 season like they did in 2010 against a Big 10 school. However, this time MTSU wants to start 1-0.
On Saturday morning, MTSU heads to Purdue for it’s first ever meeting against the Boilermakers. It will be the school’s second consecutive season-opener against the Big Ten. Last season, the Blue Raiders fell to Minnesota, 24-17 at Floyd Stadium. This year, they expect to win.
“Nationally, nobody expects us to beat Purdue, but we expect to win the game,” MTSU head Rick Stockstill said during Tuesday’s weekly press conference. “Everybody that takes the field for practice this afternoon expects us to win the game. Going up to their place for the first game of the year is a tremendous challenge. I love doing these things that nobody thinks you can do, and nobody thinks we can win this game…except us. And that’s why we have these games on the schedule.”
Starting quarterback Logan Kilgore says the players believe it, too. “I feel like there isn’t a person in our locker room that doesn’t believe we can win. But there some satisfaction in pulling off an upset.”
Another difference between the beginning of this season and last season is the Blue Raiders are able just to focus on the game ahead and not off the field issues. Of course, at this time last season, MTSU was in the news because of the Dwight Dasher situation.
However, because of the Dasher suspension last season, little-known Kilgore took over behind center and gained some valuable experience and Stockstill said that will help him for Saturday’s game.
“I think it will help Logan,” he said. “You feel better about your quarterback going into this game than you did last season.”
The Blue Raiders have 14 starters returning, but only three on defense. However, the defense will be tested early against another Big 10 school that is known for their running game.
“We know the talent level,” MTSU safety Derrick Crumpton said. “They have big physical players. We may not know these guys personally like we do in the SEC, but we know what to expect.”
Purdue was ranked 49th in the nation in rushing offense last season averaging 160.8 per game, and they have four of their five starters on the offensive line back. Also, they have a junior running back Ralph Bolden that rushed for 935 yards in 2009. He missed last season with a knee injury.
However, the season has not started and the Boilermakers are already on their third string quarterback. Starting quarterback Rob Henry tore his ACL last week, and second string and Miami (Fla) transfer Robert Marve is also hurt. Caleb TerBush takes over as starter.
Regardless who is behind center, Stockstill believes Purdue will try to establish the run.
On defense, Purdue lost All-American defensive player Ryan Kerrigan, but all four starters in the secondary return that helped the 30th ranked passing defense in the nation.
Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. in West Lafayette, Ind and the game will be shown on the Big 10 network.