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October 25, 2013

3 takeaways from MT's thrilling win

1. A LITTLE REST DOES AN OFFENSE GOOD:

It was pretty well documented that, heading in to their bye, the Middle Tennessee offense looked to be in all sorts of trouble with no relief in sight. Well, apparently, a little rest and some extra preparation time was all this squad needed to get back on track. With expectations fairly bleak, the Blue Raiders torched the Thundering Herd defense to the tune of a season-high 585 yards, which yielded a season-high 51 points.

QB Logan Kilgore, a week removed from being benched, put out his best performance of the season, arguably outplaying the reigning conference player of the year, Rakeem Cato. For the game, Kilgore completed 22-of-40 pass attempts for 277 yards, four TDs and one INT. Albeit a little lucky in the process, Kilgore guided MT right down the field in the final minutes before connecting with WR Tavarres Jefferson for the game-winning pass and catch.

While the passing game got back on track, it was the running game that exploded against the Herd and did the most damage. Credit the coaching staff here for seeing a weakness in the Herd defense, and exploiting it. At one point in the game, the Blue Raiders rushed an astounding 21 consecutive plays. Jordan Parker, Reggie Whatley and Jeremiah Bryson combined to tally 308 rushing yards on the night. Both Parker and Whatley eclipsed the 100-yard mark, while Bryson threw in 68 yards of his own for good measure.

As good as the running attack was, it is worth noting that Parker may be sidelined for an extended period of time after re-aggravating a hip injury that he has been playing through. Stockstill commended Parker's warrior spirit and toughness after the game, adding that he hopes the back does not miss too much time. More information on Parker's status going forward will come to light in the next few days.

2. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, MT IS BACK IN THE MIX:

Rick Stockstill likened the Blue Raiders current position in the standings to a baseball team being down, but not out. While the Blue Raiders do not completely control their own destiny in the race for the East Division crown, they certainly got back in the mix with their victory over the Thundering Herd and now sit one game back in the standings with four games to go.

Consider this - both ECU and Marshall now have one conference loss apiece while the Blue Raiders have two. The Pirates and the Herd will meet in their respective season finales in a few short weeks, so one of those teams is going to get that second loss, without a doubt. In case you are wondering, MT fans need to root for the Thundering Herd in that game, whilst also hoping that Marshall drops another contest themselves between now and then. It is asking a lot, but it is certainly not an unrealistic scenario. Keep an eye on their November 14th showdown on the road against Tulsa - a game in which Marshall will only have a few days to prepare for as it is another Thursday night matchup.

In terms of the outstanding schedule left on the books for MT, the final four games of the regular season shape up rather nicely for the Blue Raiders, whose remaining opponents currently hold a combined record of 4-and-20. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed with this Blue Raider team, but it's not out of the realm of possibility to think that MT wins out to finish the regular season with an 8-4 (6-2) record. And honestly, that's not too shabby in the grand scheme of things, considering this time last week Blue Raider fans were bracing themselves for a complete derailment of the Blue Raider locomotive.

3. KILGORE ANSWERED THE BELL

Heading into this game, the talk centered around fifth-year senior QB Logan Kilgore and the battle he found himself in for the starting job under center. As it turned out, there was no real controversy at all, and Kilgore shut the door on any future talk with his performance Thursday. Head coach Rick Stockstill admitted postgame that he told Kilgore the day after the North Texas debacle that the senior gunslinger would be starting against Marshall, and that he was the guy going forward.

Stockstill, who has been known to play things close to the vest, used the "silence is golden" mantra during the week, not letting on to anything and not revealing any inklings as to which way he was leaning or exactly what his plans were. It was tactical, and it worked perfectly. While everyone, including Marshall and their coaching staff, wondered who would be running out of the tunnel for this game, Kilgore practiced with the first team all week and was as prepared as he could be to face the leagues best defense.

With that preparation, and abode of confidence from his head coach, Kilgore had his best game of the season. As previously mentioned, Kilgore finished the game with 277 passing yards and four TD's to go along with one INT. He could have easily thrown some additional picks, but as Stockstill said after the game, they caught some breaks, and it was about time that happened. While he continues to throw into tight coverage, there was a definite improvement in his accuracy, especially with the deep ball. While MT did not convert all of those pass attempts, there is no denying that the ball looked better coming out of Kilgore's hands than it had all season prior.

Regardless of the ill-advised throws - and let's face it, that is just who Logan Kilgore is and always will be - the senior had the demeanor, poise and attitude that was exactly what this Blue Raider team needed against a tough Marshall team.

I do not know if Kilgore necessarily silenced his critics Thursday night, but what I do know is he solidified his spot as the starter for MT, and it looks as if that swagger that has been lacking has re-emerged, which bodes well for the Blue Raiders down the stretch.



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