MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- MTSU's football team sat and waited and waited a year ago. The phone never rang. There were no bowl invitations.
Despite an 8-4 record, the Blue Raiders were snubbed and their season ended in a most painful manner because it meant the end of several players careers.
Fast forward a year and the Blue Raiders again were sitting with an 8-4 record.
There was no snub. MTSU was invited to play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl on Dec. 30 against Navy.
Moving from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA, MTSU found itself in a league that has six bowl tie-ins.
There were no worries this year. The only thing the Blue Raiders had to do was play the waiting game to see where they were going to play.
“We are thrilled to extend our season in Fort Worth and appreciate the invitation by the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl," said MTSU director of athletics Chris Massaro. "Coach (Rick) Stockstill and I have always thought Ft. Worth would be desirable postseason site and, along with our fans, we cannot wait to get there. Our football program has enjoyed a thrilling first year in Conference USA and they have certainly earned the right to be a part of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.”
The Blue Raiders will face a Navy squad (7-4) that will wrap up its regular season on Saturday against rival Army.
"It is hard to describe how appreciative we are to be playing in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl,"Stockstill said. "The city of Ft. Worth and the surrounding community put on a first-class event, which will serve as a great reward for a successful season. We can't wait to arrive and get the week started."
The Blue Raiders, who went 6-2 in their inaugural season in Conference USA, are in the midst of a five-game winning streak.
It was certainly a regular season filled with peaks and valleys, but in the end, MTSU beat the teams it should have en route to being bowl eligible.
There is a fine line between winning and losing, and the 2013 season was a perfect example for the Blue Raiders.
In Week 3, MTSU kicked a field goal with 1:42 left to defeat Memphis 17-15 at home.
In Week 4, the Blue Raiders pulled out a dramatic 42-35 win at Florida Atlantic in overtime.
Who can forget what transpired Week 8 when MTSU drove 75 yards in 2:29 and beat Marshall 51-49 on the last play of the game when senior quarterback Logan Kilgore found senior wide out Tavares Jefferson in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown?
It was just as hairy the next week when MTSU needed a 18-yard Cody Clark field goal with just three seconds left to knock off UAB 24-21 on the road.
It was a unique regular season, and to MTSU's credit it found a way to win the close or "swing" games.
More important, MTSU earned the bowl berth it was wrongfully denied the previous year.
Monte Hale Jr. is managing editor of The Murfreesboro Post. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at HaleMonte.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
New Mexico Bowl • 1 p.m.
Colorado State (7-6) vs. Washington State (6-6), ESPN
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl • 2:30 p.m.
Fresno State (11-1) vs. USC (9-4), ABC
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl • 4:30 p.m.
San Diege State (7-5) vs. Buffalo (8-4, ESPN)
New Orleans Bowl • 8 p.m.
Tulane (7-5) vs. UL-Lafayette (8-4), ESPN
Beef O’Brady’s Bowl • 1 p.m.
East Carolina (7-5) vs. Ohio (7-5), ESPN
Hawaii Bowl • 7 p.m.
Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6), ESPN
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl • 5 p.m.
Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3), ESPN
Poinsettia Bowl • 8:30 p.m.
Utah State (8-5) vs. Northern Illinois (12-1), ESPN
Military Bowl at 1:30 p.m.
Maryland (7-5) vs. Marshall (9-4), ESPN
Texas Bowl • 5 p.m.
Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4), ESPN
Fight Hunger Bowl • 8:30 p.m.
Washington (8-4) vs. BYU (8-4), ESPN
Pinstripe Bowl • 11 a.m.
Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Rutgers (6-6), ESPN
Belk Bowl • 2:20 p.m.
North Carolina (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3), ESPN
Russell Athletic Bowl • 5:45 p.m.
Miami (9-3) vs. Louisville (11-1), ESPN
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at 9:15 p.m.
Kansas State (7-5) vs. Michigan (7-5), ESPN
Armed Forces Bowl • 10:45 a.m.
MTSU (8-4) vs. Navy (7-4), ESPN
Music City Bowl • 2:15 p.m.
Georgia Tech (7-5) vs .Ole Miss (7-5), ESPN
Alamo Bowl • 5:45 p.m.
Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon (10-2), ESPN
Holiday Bowl • 9:15 p.m.
Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Arizona State (10-3), ESPN
AdvoCare V100 Bowl • 11:30 a.m.
Boston College (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5), ESPN
Sun Bowl • 1 p.m.
Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. UCLA (9-3), CBS
Liberty Bowl • 3 p.m.
Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6), ESPN
Chick-fil-A Bowl • 7 p.m.
Duke (10-3) vs. Texas A&M (8-4), ESPN
Gator Bowl • 11 a.m.
Nebraska (8-4) vs. Georgia (8-4), ESPN2
Hearth of Dallas Bowl • 11 a.m.
UNLV (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4), ESPNU
Capital One Bowl • 12 p.m.
Wisconsin (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2), ABC
Outback Bowl • 12 p.m.
Iowa (8-4) vs. LSU (9-3), ESPN
Rose Bowl • 4 p.m.
Michigan State (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2), ESPN
Fiesta Bowl • 7:30 p.m.
Baylor (11-1) vs. UCF (11-1), ESPN
Sugar Bowl • 7:30 p.m.
Alabama (11-1) vs. Oklahoma (10-2), ESPN
Cotton Bowl • 7 p.m.
Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Missouri (10-2), FOX
Orange Bowl • 7:30 p.m.
Clemson (10-2) vs. Ohio State (12-1), ESPN
BBVA Compass Bowl • 12 p.m. Houston (8-4) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4), ESPN
GoDaddy Bowl • 8 p.m.
Ball State (10-2) vs. Arkansas State (7-5), ESPN
BCS Title • 7:30 p.m.
Florida State (13-0) vs. Auburn (12-1), ESPN