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September 8, 2008Middle Tennessee got its long awaited breakthrough non-Vanderbilt win against a major conference opponent Saturday night, but now the program faces another new challenge.
Can the Blue Raiders bounce back from the high of knocking off Maryland to get ready to do it all over again this week against Kentucky?
It's a position Rick Stockstill has not been in before with the Blue Raiders.
He has had to get his team re-energized following a close loss, but he welcomes the opportunity to tackle the opposite dilemma.
"To be honest with you I'm looking forward to it," Stockstill said Monday morning. "I would rather bring (the players) down than try to get them up. I think these guys understand now, they've been with me for two years and two games and they know how we approach things. We'll get after it on the practice field and I can promise you that when three o'clock gets here and we have our team meeting and give out our awards it (the Maryland win) will be behind us."
Pulling off a second consecutive major non-conference victory will require another enormous effort from the Blue Raider offensive line.
Kentucky's defensive front poses a menacing threat to the Blue Raider offense.
The Wildcats rank 10th in the country in total defense, third in the country in pass efficiency defense and scoring defense, and in the top 30 in sacks and tackles-for-loss.
The Blue Raiders easily handled Maryland's pass rush and didn't allow a single sack.
Stockstill warns that won't be easy to duplicate this Saturday.
"Those four guys up front (for Kentucky) are very strong, are very athletic. They are a powerful defensive front and those guys are really good up front. We have a big challenge this week. I don't know if we can go through a game against Kentucky and say we didn't give up any sacks.
"I think this is going to be a huge challenge for our offensive line, for our backs and for everyone involved in our pass protection ... I think the defensive front we are preparing to face this week is better than what we faced last week."
Not only is the Kentucky defense talented, it is also experienced.
The Wildcats start entirely juniors and seniors on the defensive side of the ball and have simply embarrassed the Louisville and Norfolk State offenses in the first two weeks of the season.
Kentucky's front four of Jeremy Jarmon, Ventrell Jenkins, Myron Pryor, and Corey Peters lead a unit that has racked up 14 tackles-for-loss and five sacks through two games while only allowing 2.1 yards per carry and 60 yards per game rushing.
Middle Tennessee wide receiver Michael Cannon suffered what appeared to be a right leg injury Saturday against Maryland after he made the first catch of the game for the Blue Raiders on a 30-yard gain.
Stockstill didn't have much new information on Cannon Monday.
"I think he is getting an MRI this morning and we won't know the results of that for awhile," Stockstill said.
Middle Tennessee NEWS