|One of the Sun Belt Conference’s most anticipated match ups takes place on Saturday with MTSU heading to Troy in the conference opener for both teams.
The Blue Raiders come into the game with a 0-2 record, but the two losses were to Purdue and Georgia Tech. However, MTSU had an extra week to prepare for its conference rival since they did not play last Saturday.
“We are coming off an open date last week, and I think it was probably a good time to have an open date, especially coming off of the Georgia Tech game,” MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill said during Tuesday’s weekly press conference.
In its last game on Sept. 10 the Blue Raiders fell at home to Georgia Tech, 49-21.
This week, MTSU heads to the SBC’s best, Troy. Even since, Stockstill became the school’s head coach in 2006, the Blue Raiders have played the Trojans during each season, including some that were on national television. However, in all five of those games MTSU came out as the loser, including last season 42-13.
Both coaches agree that the running game has been the difference in the previous match ups. Last season, the Trojans out gained the Blue Raiders 238 to 28.
“The team that rushes for the most yards has won the game the last five years,” Stockstill said. “The closest it has been was the first game in 2006 when they out rushed us by four or five yards, and that was the closest game as well. The figures are skewed in some of those games when they jumped out to a big lead and ran the ball to eat the clock. Also, when we got behind, we couldn’t stay with run as long. That’s been part of it, but the bottom line is we’ve got to do a better job of running the ball and stopping the run. We haven’t done a good enough job of that.”
MTSU junior defensive end Omar McLendon added,” The first thing we need to do is stop the run. That’s what’s gotten us beat in the past. So if we can stop the run, we can have some success.”
Both schools know the importance of this game since it is the first SBC game of the season for each team and a rivalry trophy is on the game, “The Battle for the Palladium.”
“I think in all sports there’s a competitiveness there in all sports,” MTSU sophomore quarterback Logan Kilgore said. “But in football I think because they’ve gotten our number in the last few years, it encourages us to come out ready to play. We look at it as just the next game on the schedule and we’ll be ready for them.”
Troy head coach Larry Blakeney, who is 20-0 in home openers during his career at the school that goes all the way to 1991, and will have the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium named after him on Saturday knows this is a key game in the schedule.
“It’s always a big game for us, and it’s always a big game for them,” Blakeney said. “It’s a big game for the SBC.”
Kickoff is set for 3:36 p.m. and it will be shown on CSS, cable channel 27 locally.