|Last week, the Blue Raiders were a few minutes away from knocking off a Big Ten member, Purdue for the first time in school history. However, the Boilermakers scored a touchdown with less than a minute left and MTSU had its last-second field goal blocked making the final score 27-24.
“I was really proud of our team for how hard they played, and how hard they competed against Purdue, but in the same respect, very disappointed that we didn’t win the game because we had opportunities and chances,” MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill said. “That’s the disappointing part. I am extremely proud of our effort, going up there in a really tough environment.”
On Saturday, the Blue Raiders play the host at Floyd Stadium for the first time in 2011, and face a Yellow Jacket team which is known for its unique offense, the triple-option. Both the MTSU players and coaches agree it will be challenging to defend, but it has experience from last year’s matchup between the two schools.
Last year in Atlanta, the Blue Raiders were down 14-7 at the half, but it the second half the mistakes piled up and Georgia Tech pulled away for a 42-14 victory. However, Stockstill and the team said they will look at the film from that game and try to find ways to improve.
“You have to know your assignment. If you go through it before the snap you’ll have a jump on the offense. You have to pay attention to your assignment so there isn’t a big play,” MTSU safety Derrick Crumpton said.
For those not familiar with the non-traditional offense, here is a Cliff Notes version of it, according to a SI article that was written in 2008 after current GT head coach Paul Johnson took the job at the school.
“A descendent of the wishbone that was the backbone of Oklahoma football for 20 years, the triple-option, or specifically the flex bone option that Johnson runs, features the quarterback lined up directly behind center with two slot backs aligned behind each of the tackles and a fullback behind the quarterback. Who gets the ball is up to the QB, who reads the defense and decides whether to pitch or keep it himself.”
Last year, the Yellow Jackets were tops in the nation in rushing offense, and after one week Georgia Tech has not missed a beat as it opened up the season with a dominating 63-21 win over Western Carolina. In the win, the ACC member has 662 yards of total offense, which was the second most in school history. However, most of that came through the air with 365 yards; however, it also gained 297 on the ground.
For the Blue Raiders, one of the defenders looking to stop GT is senior defensive back, Eric Russell. In the loss last week, Russell made his first start count with 13 tackles, including 11 solo. He also had an interception and a sack. His performance earned him SBC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
MTSU has shown success lately against schools from the ACC. The last time one came to Floyd Stadium, the Blue Raiders defeated Maryland 24-14 in 2008. The following year, the Blue Raiders beat them on its home field.
Besides the birthday celebration at halftime, there will be a moment of silence and other events in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Finally, if there were not enough storylines already for this game, former Blue Raider head coach Andy McCollum will make his return to the campus for the first time since he was fired after the 2005 season. He currently serves on the Yellow Jacket coaching staff as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday evening and the game will shown online at ESPN3.com