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September 6, 2008

Defense leads the way in win

A quick look at the traditional stats from Middle Tennessee's 24-14 win over Maryland Saturday night doesn't do the Blue Raider defense justice.

Maryland averaged 5.8 yards per rush, 6.6 yards per play, and just about matched Middle Tennessee's 400 yard total offense output.

But defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's unit rose to the occasion perhaps better than any other defensive effort in the MT program's Division 1-A history.

The defense held Maryland without a single first down on three straight possessions in the first half after beginning the game inauspiciously by allowing Terps running back Darel Scott to sprint 63 yards for a touchdown on Maryland's second play from scrimmage.

But it was the defense's big plays that made the difference in the final outcome.

When the Blue Raiders needed a big play, it seemed like there was a blue jersey in the perfect spot to make it.

Defensive end Jamari Lattimore recorded a big sack late in the second quarter that prevented the Terrapins from getting an opportunity to kick a game tying field goal before halftime.

Linebacker Danny Carmichael set up Middle Tennessee's second touchdown with a 25-yard interception return in the third quarter that allowed the Blue Raiders to go up 17-7.

Then in the fourth quarter, cornerbacks Ted Riley and Alex Suber thwarted a pair of Maryland's last gasps.

Riley picked off Terps quarterback Chris Turner at the beginning of the quarter as Turner lofted a deep pass down the left sideline toward the end zone with MT nursing its 24-14 lead.

It was Suber who turned the trick late in the game on the opposite side of the field, as the junior from Tampa snagged Turner's pass in the end zone for a game sealing touchback.

Middle Tennessee totaled three sacks in the game to Maryland's none and won the turnover battle 3-1.

The Blue Raiders stopped Maryland for negative yardage five times and allowed less than 50 percent of Maryland passes to be completed.

At times employing an eight man front, the run defense stiffened following Maryland's opening drive. After gaining 71 yards on its first two carries, Maryland's ground attack gained just 75 yards on its next 23 carries.

The only major second half mistake the defense made came when Maryland's dynamic receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey took a short pass, broke one tackle, and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown.

That was the last time the Terps saw the end zone though, all because a ball hawking and hustling Middle Tennessee defense played one of the all time great games in Blue Raider football history.


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