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WKU Football: Middle Tennessee Q&A With GoMiddle.com
Hate Week, midweek edition, is here and to help break down what Middle Tennessee brings to the table, GoMiddle.com's Matt Dossett stops by.
Conference USA play is upon us but, more importantly, so is Hate Week, with the Tops and Blue Raiders opening CUSA play against one another in the 73rd rendition of 100 Miles of Hate.
To get the lowdown on the Blue Raiders, who enter play Thursday with a 1-3 record, we reached out to Matt Dossett, publisher of GoMiddle.com, to walk us through how the Blue Raiders are looking this year and what to watch for in Smith Stadium.
The Towel Rack: WKU fans will probably see the "1-3" record and think "there goes Middle and Stockstill again," but might not take into account they opened against Alabama and Missouri. Have there been positives for MTSU to take out of the tough start to open the season?
Matt Dossett: I think that there absolutely has been some positives, despite the fact that fans don’t want to hear about moral victories and the team competing in losses. The Alabama game was par for the course when you square off against the Tide. In the other two losses, vs. Missouri and Colorado State, the team could’ve folded up shop and they didn’t. There have been flashes and signs of promise but they have yet to piece together 60 minutes of solid, complete football. I think if MT had WKU’s schedule so far, the record would be the same.
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TTR: This year is Nicholas Vattiato's first as the full time QB1. What were the expectations for him, and the Blue Raider offense, entering the season and how have they been met?
MD: I think the expectations for Vattiato were to simply manage the ship and to be efficient when it comes to throwing the short to intermediate routes and I think he has done that pretty effectively. I don’t think he is as prolific as WKU’s signal caller, Austin Reed, but I think he has been solid. He has seven touchdown passes opposed to two picks. I think there is pressure on him to keep performing, considering there are solid backups waiting in the wings.
TTR: It seems as if MTSU has a similar issue on offense as the Hilltoppers do with rushing the ball, though the Blue Raiders boast two 100-yard rushers to this point in the season. What - if you can pinpoint - has led to those rushing struggles?
MD: I think overall the size of the offensive line has proven to be a detriment when it comes to the rushing game. I believe there is one starter over the 300 pound mark. I think the line is better suited when it comes to pass blocking. That doesn’t mean they can’t iron out deficiencies, but it has been an uphill battle for sure. Look for MT to force the issue and attempt to establish the ground game Thursday.
TTR: Who are three Blue Raider names WKU fans should keep an ear out for on Thursday who could prove to be the difference maker, on either side of the ball?
MD: When it comes to defense, keep an eye out for Tra Fluellen, the safety. He is tied for the lead in total tackles and is an absolute ball hawk in the formidable secondary. He is not afraid to come up and stuff the run too.
On offense, Jaiden Credle, the tailback, is one to keep tabs on. He is a home run threat who averages over six yards per carry. His running mate Frank Peasant is no slouch either. Both Credle and Fluellen are capable of turning the tide of a game with impact plays.
(ed. note - a player named ‘Peasant’ in a rivalry game. Methinks WKU fans will have some fun with that one.)
TTR: Finish the sentence: Middle Tennessee will win if...
MD: MT will win if they win the turnover battle by two, and get a big non-conventional play; maybe a house call on a punt, a pick six, or a pivotal blocked punt. WKU will need to have a few brain farts.
TTR: Western Kentucky will win if...
MD: WKU will win if they avoid catastrophic plays. Kind of playing off the Middle answer, if WKU wins the turnover battle and plays a B-game or better they will win, in my opinion.
TTR: Finally, got a prediction for us? Will the Tops get a fifth-straight 100 Miles of Hate win or will MTSU break hearts in Bowling Green Thursday night?
MD: Tops keep the streak and win, 34-24.
Our thanks again to Matt for taking time to answer our questions. For the MTSU perspective this week, be sure you’re following the GoMiddle crew over on Twitter.