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MTSU football team looking to take next step

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MTSU's football team has gone 29-22 overall and 22-10 in league play since joining Conference USA in 2013.

The Blue Raiders have gone to three bowl games in those four years, but one item missing from the résumé is a C-USA championship.

The Blue Raiders are picked to finish second in the East Division of C-USA this season, but they obvious have higher aspirations.

So, what will be the key to MTSU being in the hunt for a league championship?

"One, we have to play better defense," MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. "All of you have heard it; you win games with your defense. I think that's where it starts. If we can play better defensively and continue to improve offensively, and in the kicking game, then I believe in November when the dust settles then I believe we will have a chance to compete for it."

MTSU's strength still figures to be an explosive offense that averaged almost 40 points a game and 517 yards in total offense. However, a defense that allowed 40 points a game in conference play obviously must make great strides.

MTSU junior quarterback Brent Stockstill said the Blue Raiders' main goal is to take the next step.

"That's everything for us right now. That's the mindset we took in the offseason, both sides of the ball," he said. "We're just hungry, we're ready to roll. We're going to feed off each other, which is something I don't think we really did in the past.

"We're a true family, and when you're a family you can accomplish anything that you want to. We've done some good things in the past, had some OK years eight wins and that kind of thing. But we're going to take the next step. We've got to win a conference championship, win a bowl game and I think we've got the guys to do that."

Stockstill, who missed two and half games last season, still threw for 3,233 yards, 21 touchdowns and just seven touchdowns last season.

He wasn't named to the preseason All-CUSA team as the award went to Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White. However, he acknowledged White merited the honor.

"I don't get into all that. (White) deserves it; he won a conference championship," Brent Stockstill said. "He led his team to that, putting up big time numbers. So that's his preseason honor, he can have it.

"I'm just competing to be the best version of myself every day. It's great to have quarterbacks in this conference like him. It's fun to see where I stack up, but in the grand scheme of things I'm not worried about that. I ignore the noise, put my head down and go to work."

MTSU's defense knows it will be under the microscope this season considering how poorly it performed a season ago and how prolific the Blue Raider offense figures to be in conference play.

"It makes us really hungry this year," said senior linebacker D.J. Sanders. "We realized we kinda dropped the ball last year. So we're putting that on our shoulders to be better."

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Brent Stockstill, Monte Hale Jr., MTSU football, Rick Stockstill
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