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November 19, 2009

Six pack: Special senior day

Middle Tennessee has had a very memorable 2009 season, and although the year is winding down there are still great opportunities for the Raiders to make more memories.

This Saturday's game against Arkansas State will be the final home game for a senior class that began the program's turnaround under Rick Stockstill in 2006.

GoMiddle.com breaks down that and five other game related items for Saturday's game against ASU in this week's Six Pack.

SPECIAL CLASS: MT will bid farewell to 13 scholarship seniors on Saturday, a group that will be able to look back on their career as the most successful four year stretch in the program's first decade at the 1-A (FBS) level. Of the 13 scholarship seniors, only three were recruited in that first class signed by Rick Stockstill in 2006. Linebacker Danny Carmichael, running back Desmond Gee, and linebacker Cam Robinson will run through the Floyd Stadium tunnel for the final time after trusting Stockstill's vision enough to sign on the dotted line four Februarys ago. Five of the 14 players signed in that class are no longer in the program, and six others took redshirt years. Carmichael, Gee, and Robinson, in addition to the rest of the class that features fifth year players that arrived in 2005, have a lot to be proud of. They will take MT to its second bowl game in four seasons, still have a chance to win a share of a second league championship and have so far posted an 18-9 record in Sun Belt games (24-23 overall). Gee leaves as the program's all time leader in kick return yards. Carmichael will leave as the all time leader in forced fumbles and is in the top 10 all time in tackles for loss and sacks. By the end of the year fifth year senior Patrick Honeycutt will rank in the top five all time in receptions.

RAIDERS HAVE OWNED ASU AT FLOYD: Floyd Stadium has been a house of horrors for Arkansas State and head coach Steve Roberts. Roberts wasn't around for MT's 54-6 win over Arkansas State in 2001, but he has been around for ASU's last three trips to Murfreesboro, all of which were losses by at least 17 points and twice by four or more touchdowns. In Roberts' three losses at Floyd Stadium, the Blue Raiders have outscored ASU 114-31 and outgained the Red Wolves by 554 yards.

SACKS STILL PILING UP: With another outstanding performance last week, MT's pass rush continues to terrorize opponents. The Raiders now have 30 sacks on the season, a mark that leads the league by a wide margin and ranks in the top 10 nationally. MT will be gunning for more this week against the Red Wolves, which have tried to break in a brand new offensive line this season with little progress. ASU has allowed 24 sacks this season, a mark that ranks only ahead of Western Kentucky and FIU in the Sun Belt.

GEE MAKING BIG PLAYS IN KICKING GAME: Desmond Gee has been a key factor on special teams for MT throughout his career, but his work returning kicks over the last four weeks has been particularly impressive. If you take out his second return of the Louisiana-Lafayette game, in which he only gained one yard after picking a short rolling kickoff, Gee has averaged nearly 30 yards per kick return over his last 11 attempts. His recent good play has moved him into fifth place in the conference in kick return average and has provided a spark to what had been a pretty punchless return game early in the season.

GROUND GAME FACES BIG TEST: MT's success running the ball over the last few weeks has really helped to balance the Blue Raider offense. We should find out in the next two weeks just how far the ground game has progressed as MT faces the two best run defenses in the conference. Arkansas State ranks second in the league defending the run and allows just 3.5 yards per carry. ULM ranks first and allows just 3.3 yards per carry. The emergence of running back D.D. Kyles has taken some of the rushing load off of quarterback Dwight Dasher. Kyles' production in the last month has helped to lift MT's rushing attack to the third ranked ground game in the league.

HOW WILL ASU SCORE?: Arkansas State has had a dismal season offensively and the Red Wolves face a big challenge in figuring out a way to score against the MT defense. ASU ranks eighth in the league in passing offense and rushing offense. MT ranks in the top four in the league in defending both the run and the pass and leads the conference in pass efficiency defense. Don't expect ASU to have the type of offensive outburst it had last year in beating MT 31-14 in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves will probably need a special teams or defensive touchdown to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.


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