Remembering junior Ralph Webb scamper down the sidelines for a 39-yard touchdown run is the last thing the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders want to think about prior to their matchup with the Dores on Saturday.
Year one of this renewed mid-state rivalry went to Vanderbilt in a come-from-behind 17-13 victory last season.
This year, MT redshirt sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill is not a freshman anymore and wants another crack at Vandy’s well-respected SEC defense. While trying to fend off the Blue Raiders’ high octane passing game, the Dores seek their own identity on that side of the ball.
(1-0) 55-0 victory vs Alabama A&M
RB Ralph Webb, Jr – 20 att. 97 yds, 0 TDs
QB Kyle Shurmur, So – 8 for 22, 73 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
ILB Zach Cunningham, R-Jr – 12 total tackles, 6 solo, 6 asst
QB Brent Stockstill, So – 30 for 36, 329 yds, 5 TDs, 1 INT
WR Richie James, So – 8 rec, 73 yds, 9.1 avg, 1 TD
CB Jeremy Cutrer, R-Sr – 2 total tackles, 3 pass breakups
Vanderbilt has to figure out a way to get its passing game going. That means getting wide receivers and tight ends involved early. The Dores can always rely on their running game, but to keep up with MT’s high flying offense it’s going to come down to success through the air. Last week against the Gamecocks, Vandy only threw for 73 yards, which was 125th out of 127 NCAA teams.
Head coach Derek Mason will tell you he has no regrets, but pulling QB Kyle Shurmur for two series after he helped build a 10-point lead against South Carolina is one that he would have done differently.
For the Dores to beat the Blue Raiders for the second straight year, they need to get Shurmur into a rhythm early and use Webb to collect first downs on short yardage situations. But let’s face it, a 24-21 type of game is what Vandy is looking for, not a 52-45 shootout. Mason & Co. need to play clock management and every time they are in Blue Raider territory, they must come away with points.
The Blue Raiders averaged 34 points per game last season and are coming off a 55-point beat down against Alabama A&M last week. When MT wins, they score a boat load of points. But when they lose, like last season to Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee struggles to put points on the board.
Brent Stockstill is a dynamic quarterback with knowledge of the offense and a strong arm to push the ball down the field. Where Stockstill struggles is against premier defensive fronts. Last year, Vandy won the football game because of third down stops. The Blue Raiders were 8 of 19 on third downs, which resulted in six punts and two failed fourth down attempts.
Moving the chains and getting Stockstill to connect with his favorite target, WR Richie James, is the key to getting revenge on Derek Mason’s group.
The other thing that needs to be focused on is coaching. Head coach Rick Stockstill, Brent’s father, has the upper hand in this matchup because Vandy’s Derek Mason is notorious for making bone-headed calls on the sideline that eventually cost his team. Keeping his Blue Raiders focused on the task at hand in an opposing stadium will help Rick Stockstill take the crown in the midstate.