Know Your Foe: Q&A With MTSU Insider Will Borthick
After a much needed bye week for players to get healthy, FAU is back on the gridiron this Saturday to take on a familiar opponent in former Sun Belt Conference member Middle Tennessee State.
With two games left in the season, this contest will be a good barometer of how Partridge and the coaching staff will be able to keep the team together as they will be playing for pride with hopes for a bowl season lost.
They also would like to get their first road win of the year. The Owls will be playing spoiler in Murfreesboro on two levels as they try to ruin senior day as well as stopping the Blue Raiders from gaining bowl eligibility. Kickoff is set for 7 pm.
Special thanks to Will Borthick of the Daily News Journal for taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more from him Here and also follow him on twitter at @willborthick.
Now, let's get to the questions.
Q: Head coach Rick Stockstill has been in Murfreesboro since 2006 and has taken the Blue Raiders to new heights under his watch as he has had MTSU in several bowl games and has even notched a ten-win season. How has Stockstill been able to be achieve success at MTSU? How is his standing with the Blue Raider fan base with a 5-5 season? Are they fearful that he may be looking elsewhere this offseason?
WB: I'll go in reverse order. Stockstill isnít going anywhere this offseason. And as for the fan baseís view of him, fans are fickle. Theyíve soured at this very moment because of an upset loss last week at FIU. Plus, the team was 4-2 at one point this season but I think he very much has the backing of the people at the university, which is all that really matters. As for how heís been successful, heís won (most of) the games he was supposed to and he hasnít lost (many of) the games he wasnít supposed to. The approach has worked well.
Q: After jumping to an early lead over FIU it seemed like the Blue Raiders were on there way to reaching bowl eligibility, and then the wheels fell off. What triggered the 38-28 loss to FIU?
WB: MTSU turned the ball over five times in the gameís final 31 minutes, the first of which came at the FIU goal line as the Blue Raiders were about to take a 28-10 at the half. They never recovered from the play.
Q: Quarterback was a question mark entering the season after three-year starter Logan Kilgore graduated. Briefly assess the QB play of sophomore Austin Grammer. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses?
WB: Itís been the tale of two different seasons for Grammer. He was superb in the first six games of the year, completing more than 70 percent of his passes. But since the teamís loss at Marshall on Oct. 11, heís been different player. Heís forced a lot of throws, hasnít been accurate and has thrown a bunch of interceptions, including five in the last two games. His biggest strength is his legs.
Q: What type of offense does MTSU run and who are the key players FAU fans should be on the lookout for?
WB: MTSU will utilize a lot of screens and quick passes with a steady running game. Offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner will take his shots downfield too. But its offensive success will be determined by its running game.
Q: What type of defensive schemes does MTSU run and who are ballhawks FAU fans should keep an eye on?
WB: Safety Kevin Byard, linebacker TT Barber and defensive end Shubert Bastien are the defenseís best players. The unit will sell out to stop the run in order to make opponents one dimensional. They havenít blitzed an inordinate amount though.
Q: How has the special teams unit fared for MTSU this season?
WB: Special teams have been average this season. Theyíve flashed greatness at times (two punt returns for TDs and three blocked kicks) but theyíve been porous too, although no opponent has returned a kick for TD against them yet.
Q: Prediction Time!!! FAU is coming off a bye entering this week's game but has yet to win a game on the road this year. With dreams of earning bowl bid officially dashed last time out, it will be interesting to see their motivation for this week's contest. On the other side, MTSU is still fighting for bowl eligibility? How do you see the game playing out?
WB: MTSU has lost three of its last four games. Players and coaches has been adamant that the season is not slipping away but I have my doubts. Still, if MTSU can establish its running game and not turn the ball over, I think theyíll find a win to on senior night. The team is 5-0 when rushing for more than 200 yards and 0-5 when it doesnít; likewise, MTSU is 4-0 when it wins the turnover margin and 0-4 when it doesnít. Final Score: MTSU 31, FAU 21.