The Blue Raiders finally got back to their winning ways Oct. 17 against FIU, besting the Panthers 42-34, and it was good to see some smiling faces after the game once again. Perhaps no player had a bigger smile than redshirt sophomore cornerback Mike Minter though.
“I’ve not smiled that hard in a minute! I only smile for pictures, but I was cheesin’ real hard though. It felt good,” said Minter with an ear-to-ear grin.
Minter had more reasons than the win to be happy. In the second quarter, Mike pulled down his first career interception, a milestone that a near speechless Minter could only describe as “sensational.”
Minter wasn’t the only player to post a first-time milestone. After Jeremiah Bryson went down with an injury early in the first quarter, and with Shane Tucker and Jordan Parker already out with injuries, true freshman Desmond Anderson answered the call.
Anderson finished the day with 144 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Much to Coach Stockstill’s delight, his yardage didn’t come on a handful of large gains, but through a consistent day of five- and six-yard carries.
However, it was Kamani Thomas who picked up the large chunks of yardage. Thomas broke out for touchdown runs of 26 and 15 yards on his way to 51 total yards on just five carries. Thomas has struggled with injuries ever since coming on campus in 2013, and therefore has seen very limited playing time.
In praise of Thomas, Coach Stock referenced a sign which hangs in the MT locker room that reads, “Do you get satisfaction from teammate’s success?”
“Kamani exemplifies that. He hasn’t played much since he’s been here. Seems like he’s been hurt a bunch since he’s been here. A couple weeks ago he was on the scout team, and not playing, but he didn’t complain. He kept working and now he’s got his chance,” Coach Stockstill said. “I’m happy for him individually. I’m really proud of him and he exemplifies what a teammate is.”
Redshirt freshman sensation Richie James had yet another outstanding performance. James pulled down six more catches for 104 yards, including a 42-yard reception in which the bulk of the gain was made after the catch. James currently leads all freshmen in receptions and receiving yards, and ranks fifth and 14th in the nation respectively. His performance against FIU further solidifies James as the best freshman receiver in college football and quarterback Brent Stockstill couldn’t agree more.
“You know, it’s hard to argue that. The dude just makes plays. When the ball is in his hands, he’s special. He’s fun to watch, so yeah, I’d say he’s the best freshman receiver in the nation,” the QB said.
Of course, where would James be without Stockstill? Brent saw a drastic decrease in attempts due to the effectiveness of the running game, amongst other factors, but he was efficient. Stockstill completed 17 of 26 attempts for 261 yards in the most balanced attack MT has displayed all season.
Speaking of balanced attacks, the Blue Raiders will be facing the most balanced attack they’ve faced all season this Saturday, Oct. 24, assuming Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon is available. Dixon, a All-Conference USA first-team selection, has missed his last two games due to an ankle injury, but was seeing nearly 20 carries per game before being sidelined. Dixon is a power back who also is a proven threat receiving out of the backfield.
If Dixon doesn’t go, the Blue Raiders can expect to see LaTech quarterback Jeff Driskel air it out. Driskel has thrown the ball 85 times for 654 yards in the last two games without Dixon.
If Driskel’s name sounds familiar, it should. This is the same Jeff Driskel who struggled at Florida with both injuries and production. Driskel has seen a considerable improvement statistically since transferring to Louisiana Tech. The same quarterback who posted a 23/20 touchdown to interception ratio in 29 games in Gainesville has thrown 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions so far this season. After just seven games, Driskel is also only 1,300 yards away from surpassing his career passing yardage as a Gator.
The Bulldogs were picked to win the C-USA West before the season began, and they lead it now. They were also picked to contend for the conference title, but that is a title that the Blue Raiders want to bring home themselves. It will take MT not only winning this one against LaTech, but probably winning out the rest of the schedule, and Darius Johnson isn’t doubting their chances.
“I believe in this team, and I believe in every single player on this team. I feel like we can win out, I feel like we will win out. We just have to continue with the mission,” Johnson said.
We’ll see if MTSU can back up Johnson’s words this week when the game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CT in Ruston, La. You can follow the action by listening to 102.5 The Game, or watching on ASN.
Kevin Byard didn’t make progress on either of the records he is chasing this year, but you can bet that getting the win was all that mattered to him.
“We’re not where we wanna be right now, and were definitely going to keep working, but it definitely feels good to get the taste of those three losses out of our mouths,” Byard said after the FIU win.
You can expect Byard to get plenty of opportunities to break the MT career interception mark, especially if Dixon is out.