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December 3, 2008
"It adds to the disappointment. It adds to the hurt. I'm very disappointed because we lost the game, and we had a chance to get into a bowl game."
The Blue Raiders lost the offensive shootout and lost their chance for a bowl berth after a three game winning streak brought them to the brink of postseason.
Middle Tennessee's season closes with a 5-7 record (3-4 in Sun Belt games) while Louisiana-Lafayette will wait to find out if it will get a chance to play in a bowl game.
The game seemed destined to come down to which team could get the ball last when it was tied 28-28 in the fourth quarter. Louisiana-Lafayette responded to a Blue Raider touchdown to retake the lead, 35-28. With less than 10 minutes remaining, MT's Desmond Gee fumbled on a first down play inside Ragin Cajun territory. The lost fumble was the first of three straight turnovers to end the game for the Blue Raiders and helped ULL open up its decisive 14 point margin as the Cajuns scored four plays later.
RB Phillip Tanner: For the third straight game, Tanner put up big numbers and carried the offense on his back for a portion of the contest. Tanner scored twice and managed 78 yards on 23 carries. He was gaining yards in chunks in the first half before slowing his pace in the final 30 minutes. He caught two passes out of the backfield for an additional 11 yards.
WR Sancho McDonald: McDonald made the play of the game for the Blue Raiders with a 15 yard touchdown reception on the first play of the fourth quarter. The freshman showed great body control in the back left corner of the end zone as he reeled in Craddock's third down pass and cleanly got one foot inbounds to seal the score. His night consisted of much more than that one play. He finished with 98 yards on six catches that included a couple of key third down receptions as well as a long one late in the game that kept hope alive for MT.
QB Joe Craddock: Craddock's final game in a Blue Raider uniform didn't have a storybook ending, but he closed his career with another outstanding performance. He misfired on only six passes and rolled up 31 rushing yards in addition to his near 250 yard passing day. Craddock tossed two touchdown passes but the plays he will likely be mentally replaying are his fourth quarter interception that he threw behind Tanner and the bad snap on MT's final possession that he couldn't recover.
LB Danny Carmichael: MT's defense struggled to hold down the balanced Ragin Cajuns but Carmichael had another impressive outing. The junior seven solo tackles and 8.5 tackles overall, three of which were for loss. He had nearly half of MT's seven TFLs on the night.
WR Eldred King: King enjoyed a steady evening with six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown to rank second to McDonald for the game in receiving. Top weapons Patrick Honeycutt and Malcolm Beyah combined for just two catches, so King's strong performance provided the production the Blue Raider passing game is accustomed to.
The most frustrating aspect of the loss for MT has to be the three turnovers that ended its final three drives. The Blue Raiders were matching ULL score for score in what was quickly becoming an exciting second half. Three of MT's four touchdown drives were 76 yards or more while ULL had two scoring drives of 80 yards and only one that started in Blue Raider territory. The two offenses combined to convert 15 of 23 third and fourth down plays.
Lost Yardage: Tanner had a good day on the ground for MT, but he had 24 yards of negative rushing to counter his 102 gross yards gained on the ground.
Fourth Quarter T.O.P.: ULL possessed the ball for more than 11 minutes in the final quarter.
Net Punting: ULL averaged 36.7 net yards per punt, more than 13 yards better than MT's 23.5 mark in the same category.
AN EXTRA WEAPON
Michael Desormeaux and Tyrell Fenroy get most of the press clippings for the ULL offense and defenses have to focus their efforts on containing them. It was a third Cajun weapon that really hurt the Blue Raiders though, as Jason Chery rolled to 138 all purpose yards to lead his team. Chery caught a touchdown pass, averaged more than 10 yards per reception and also averaged nearly six yards per carry on five rushing attempts. His six catches were double the amount of his closest teammates.
MT's defense had been a wrecking crew during the three game winning streak. The Blue Raiders couldn't continue their recent defensive surge in Lafayette though. After getting five sacks in three straight games, MT sacked Desormeaux just twice and yielded almost six yards per play. ULL also became the first team since Mississippi State to not turn the ball over against the Blue Raiders. After averaging nearly 11 tackles for loss over the last three games, MT settled for just seven stops behind the line against the Ragin Cajuns.
NOTES AND TIDBITS
Middle Tennessee scored a touchdown on its opening drive for the second game in a row and the fourth time this season ... The 21 first half points allowed by MT was the most this season in the first half of play ... Alan Gendreau's consecutive made field goal streak ended at eight when he missed a 46 yarder into the wind just before the half ... DT Trevor Jenkins made his team-leading 37th straight start against ULL ... WR Eldred King's third quarter TD reception was his fourth of the season ... Dating back to the North Texas game, Phillip Tanner scored eight straight touchdowns for the Blue Raiders before Eldred King broke the streak with his TD reception in the third quarter ... TE Byron McLeod made his second career reception ... Middle Tennessee lost its regular season finale for the fifth straight year.
End of 2008 Season
* Notes and Tidbits courtesy of MT Media Relations.
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