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September 15, 2009Middle Tennessee takes aim at Maryland this Saturday with the goal of knocking off the Terrapins for the second straight season. GoMiddle.com breaks down six game related items in the Tuesday Six Pack.
DASHER BY THE NUMBERS: Dwight Dasher's outstanding performance against Memphis certainly passed the eye test, but a deeper analysis shows that it passed a thorough statistical test as well, even discounting his quality work with his legs. Dasher completed 18 of 26 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in the game, good for a single game passer rating of 169.2. It was the sixth highest single game pass efficiency rating by an MT quarterback (minimum 15 pass attempts) in the Rick Stockstill era and the highest passer rating against a non-conference opponent. Dasher now owns three of the top six single game pass efficiency ratings in Stockstill's 39 game tenure. He posted a better number against Florida International (235.65) and North Texas (171.22) during the 2007 season. Former quarterback Joe Craddock has the highest single game efficiency rating in the Stockstill era (237.5 against ULM in 2007).
RUBBER GAME IN THE SERIES: Saturday's game at Maryland will be the third time MT has faced off against the Terrapins under Stockstill, with each team winning a game so far. Maryland defended its home field with a 24-10 victory in 2006 and the Blue Raiders returned the favor with a 24-14 win at Floyd Stadium last year. The two games played since 2006 trend toward MT statistically. Maryland has outgained the Blue Raiders 281-223 in rushing yardage but MT has a total offense lead of 723-631 thanks to a 150 yard advantage through the air. The two teams have eached turned the ball over four times combined in the two games. MT has converted 47.2 percent of its third downs against Maryland. The Terrapins have converted 42.1 percent of their third downs against MT.
LOOKING VULNERABLE: Maryland has not been impressive in its opening two games. The Terps opened on the West Coast against California and returned home with a 52-13 pasting. They followed that up with a double overtime escape against James Madison back in College Park. The Terps have been dreadful against the run and have yet to force a single turnover in two games. The Blue Raiders are less equipped to take advantage of Maryland's run defense struggles because senior tailback Phillip Tanner will not play after suffering a knee injury against Memphis, but the early season game film should give the Blue Raider coaching staff plenty of items to zero in on as potential areas for attack.
BIG PLAY THREATS: Through two games, MT has four players averaging more than 15 yards per catch. Shane Blissard, Chris McClover, Garrett Andrews, and Tanner are all over that 15 yard per catch threshold currently. It's not surprising that MT would hit on some big plays through the air, but that particular makeup of four receivers has to be a little surprising, considering Malcolm Beyah and Sancho McDonald are probably the two biggest big play threats among the wideouts. Among MT's main receivers last year, Beyah was the only one to finish the season averaging more than 15 yards per catch.
ACC NIGHTMARE: There may not be a conference more in need of good news than the ACC. The league is 2-4 against other Big Six opponents so far in non-conference play and has lost twice to FCS members. Until last season's Orange Bowl win for Virginia Tech over Cincinnati, the conference had lost eight consecutive BCS bowl games. Its two potentially most powerful programs - Florida State and Miami - have been disappointing since the league expanded to 12 teams in 2005. MT can add to the league's misery if it drops Maryland in College Park this weekend.
MAKING UP FOR TANNER: With Phillip Tanner out for the Maryland game, the Blue Raiders will have to look elsewhere to replace his production. Dasher can certainly do damage with his legs, but MT needs somebody to emerge to take some of the load off of Dasher's shoulders. D.D. Kyles scored a fourth quarter touchdown against Memphis and he will have a chance to prove he is capable of filling Tanner's void, but the Raiders also need Marquise Branton and freshman Benjamin Cunningham to emerge. Both got carries against Memphis and they will need to prove capable of contributing in order to help Stockstill achieve his stated goal of being able to redshirt his other true freshmen running backs.