From the Bird’s Nest: Five Keys to Beating Middle Tennessee
Okay, everyone take a deep breath.
The Cajuns lost a game last week. In retrospect, all that talk about 10-2 or 11-1 was really pretty silly, wasn't it?
Time for everyone to regroup. That means the team, the coaches, the fans, everyone.
Another road challenge this week. The Cajuns travel to Murfreesboro to take on Middle Tennessee (no State, please.)
Trips to the Murf are usually fun. There's a group of Cajuns fans that will make the trip, due in no small part to the hospitality Cajuns fans receive when they go to the land of the Blue. Through the years, the fans dressed in red and blue have tailgated together and enjoyed each others' company. From the fans' standpoint, it's the friendliest rivalry in the league.
Inside the stadium, it's been maybe the craziest.
Two games in Murfreesboro have gone into overtime. One of them went four overtimes.
Two years ago the Cajuns took the lead into halftime, then got blitzed in the second half.
This has a chance to be another good one.
Middle Tennessee is 2-4. They could easily be 5-1. They lost to Purdue by three in a game they should have won. They lost to Troy by three in a game they could have won. They lost in double overtime to WKU in a game they handed to the Hilltoppers. The Blue Raiders lead the league in rushing. They also lead the league in passing. These guys are really good on offense.
If the Cajuns are going to get win number seven and put all of this bowl talk to rest, here are five things to watch for.
1. RUN THE #$&^!@& FOOTBALL--The Cajuns failed to do this last week and it was a big part of the reason the plane ride was so quiet on the way home. The offensive line must do a better job and so must the running backs. Middle has given up their share of rushing yards this year (although a lot of it was to Purdue and Georgia Tech). The Cajuns have to have success in this facet of the game. If Blane Gautier has to throw it 50 times again this week, the Cajuns will lose again.
2. LIMIT/MAKE BIG PLAYS---The Raiders have been succeptable to giving up the big play on defense this year. It's been a pattern all season long. The Cajuns have big play capabilities on offense and they need to happen for the Cajuns to have a chance. Conversely, Middle Tennessee is going to score some points. That's a given. The Cajuns need to make sure they earn them and not give up the big play and that includes yards after the catch.
3. STOP THE RUN--The Raiders have had injury issues in their backfield, yet they're still running effectively. We saw last weekend what happens when the other team runs at will.
4. HIT THE QUARTERBACK--Middle's offensive line is very good. Quarterback Logan Kilgore has only been sacked five times this year. The Cajuns don't necessarily have to sack him, but they do need to pressure him and a good lick or two wouldn't hurt.
5. STEP UP ON SPECIAL TEAMS--KO specialist Hunter Stover is out. Qyen Griffen will probably be out as well. Stover not only kicks off, he covers kicks like a linebacker. Griffen was the most effective gunner on the kickoff team. Someone is going to have to step up in both places this week. Covering kickoffs just got tough again. This will be a big part of this game.
Of course, the turnover battle will be important. But FIU showed last night you can win despite losing the turnover battle if you do two things: Run the football....and keep the other guys from running it.