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September 28, 2013

5 takeaways from Friday's game

1. T.T. BARBER HAS OFFICIALLY ARRIVED:

One of the lone bright spots from this game came from LB T.T. Barber. A true sophomore, Barber has been playing lights out this season, and he continued his tear against the Cougars. Barber was the only defender who could remotely contain BYU QB Taysom Hill, and was in on nearly every play in which he was on the field. Barber finished the game with 15 tackles (nine solo, six assists), one sack, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble as he wreaked havoc against the Cougars. We have reached the point where these performances from Barber are no longer a surprise. In fact, they are rather expected. At this rate, he's going to put himself into consideration for postseason accolades, and even greater expectations in the years to come.

2. LOGAN KILGORE WAS ALL SHOOK UP:

Before we deep dive into this, it is worth noting that BYU is probably the best defensive unit that this team is going to see this season. Now that we've got that out of the way, what exactly was that? Senior QB Logan Kilgore had what was perhaps the worst showing of his career. Throughout the game, Kilgore's decision making left a lot to be desired. Whereas Blue Raider fans have become accustomed to Kilgore's gun-slinging mentality, against BYU, Kilgore was the complete opposite. He was gun-shy, timid and uncertain on his progressions. When he did let the ball fly, his throws were often rushed and underthrown. To put it bluntly, Kilgore looked shook.

On the night, Kilgore completed just 13-of-31 pass attempts for 82 yards with one TD and one INT. Not exactly the numbers Blue Raider fans were looking for. One has to believe that Kilgore will turn things around, however. It is easy to be hard on the guy following this performance but, again, look at the defense that MT just faced. The Blue Raiders will not go against a tougher opposition for the rest of the season. Kilgore does, however, need to show some immediate improvement next week against ECU, or those moans and groans for a change at the QB position will become a lot louder, and a lot clearer.

3. THERE'S PLENTY OF BLAME TO GO AROUND:

Logan Kilgore had a bad game, we know that, but he was not alone Friday night. Offensively, it is safe to say everybody had a bad game. From the running backs, to the offensive line, to the receivers - everybody gets a share of the blame in this one. MT only mustered 107 yards on the ground on 41 carries against the Cougars, an average of only 2.6 yards per carry. Jordan Parker was stymied and Reggie Whatley had problems breaking to the outside where he does his damage. The offensive line had their own issues with untimely holding penalties when MT could least afford them. As for the receivers, they looked lost on their routes, had trouble finding the ball in the air and had too many drops. When your quarterback is struggling, you have to hang on to the football. Add all of these things up, and you have only 10 points and 212 total yards to show for your efforts.

Fans will point fingers at the coaching staff for this performance as well, and to be honest, they have good reason. Play calling was unimaginative and rather predictable at times. How many times do you send Jordan Parker up the middle when there's been nothing there the previous 10 times? Why does MT continue to line up in Pistol and Shotgun formations in the shadows of their own endzone? These are valid questions. The Blue Raiders need to get more creative with their offense because what they are doing right now is simply not working. Maybe the extra day to prepare for ECU will benefit the offense because, at this point, things cannot get much worse.

4. THE IDENTIFY OF THE DEFENSE HAS BEEN SOLIDIFIED:

Here's what you have with MT's defense. You have a unit that is going to get plenty of turnovers and sacks. What you are also getting is a unit that is going to struggle in just about every other area of the game as they employ the "bend but don't break" philosophy. They are going to give up a ton of yards and their fair share of points, but they will keep you in most games, if that makes sense. There are some really good players on this side of the ball. T.T. Barber and Kevin Byard are studs, but the two of them can only do so much. Co-defensive coordinators Tyrone Nix and Steve Ellis have done a good job of coaching up this unit - the improvements over last year are there - but this unit is easily another year or two away from being a driving force for Middle Tennessee.

5. GET WELL SOON, WILLIAM:

Late in Friday's game, Blue Raider RB William Pratcher suffered a broken ankle, ending his season and, unless a medical redshirt is sought after, his career for the Blue Raiders. The RS senior will not go down in the record books for his production, but he should be admired for his spirit and determination. Pratcher burst onto the scene in 2011, making the most of playing time that was granted to him due to injuries. He led the team in rushing that year with 585 yards and two TD's. In 2012, however, Pratcher went off the grid, appearing in only three games and just 19 total snaps.

Whereas many before him simply walked away from the game and their team after effectively being shunned, Pratcher worked harder than ever. He was named the Most Improved RB during the spring this year, and earned his way back into the rotation, where he had run for 112 yards on 21 carries so far this season, including a pair of TDs. That should stand for something, and at least to me, it does. Get well soon, William.



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