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November 10, 2008
Defensive switch paying off for Blue Raiders
Rick Stockstill knew he needed to find a way for his defense to cause more havoc in the backfield.Middle Tennessee head coach
The Blue Raiders hadn't recorded a sack in three straight games and were having a hard time forcing enough negative plays to get consistent defensive stops.
A strategy shift prior to the ULM game paid off handsomely against the Warhawks, as Middle Tennessee rolled to five sacks and 13 total tackles for loss in a 24-21 victory.
Stockstill said Monday the shift was all about increasing speed and said it will remain in place at Western Kentucky this week.
"We went to a three man front against Monroe and that's what we will continue to do the rest of the year or at least for this week to keep trying to get a faster look out there," Stockstill said. "We've got guys running all over the place and we blitzed a lot (against ULM). We will continue to look at that."
The Blue Raiders opened against ULM with Trevor Jenkins at his normal spot in the middle of the line with Wes Hofacker and Emmanuel Perez flanking him on either side.
The extra body came in the defensive backfield, as Stockstill and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz elected to start five defensive backs, with free safeties Derrick Crumpton and Jeremy Kellem joined by strong safety Kevin Brown.
The extra speed on the field caused ULM some major protection problems. The Blue Raiders got two sacks from linebacker Lonnie Clemons and additional sacks from Danny Carmichael, Chris McCoy, and Ted Riley pursuing from his corner position.
And even though ULM piled up 236 yards of rushing offense, the Blue Raiders played quite well against the run overall.
Warhawk quarterbacks, led by Kinsmon Lancaster, churned out 144 of those rushing yards while star tailback Frank Goodin was held to 88.
"I thought we did a good job stopping the run against Monroe," Stockstill said. "Where we gave up rushing yards was with the QB scrambles. (Lancaster) had a 70 or 80 yard scramble there when we had him in the backfield and he had some other scrambles. I know we gave up 200 plus yards rushing but 70 or 80 of it came on one play and he had some other 10 or 15 yard runs in there off of scrambles.
"We just have to do a better job of getting him down on the ground. Most of the time on his scrambles we had a chance to get him on the ground and we didn't do it."
Middle Tennessee will face another good rushing attack in Bowling Green this Saturday. The Hilltoppers have had a very balanced rush offense this year and also have quarterbacks that are capable of making plays with their feet.
None have the scrambling ability of Lancaster though, who can make anybody miss in the open field and proved it Saturday.
With the three man front helping the defense get more speed attacking the backfield and Stockstill confident the defense is still fully capable of stopping the run, it definitely appears the new look is here to stay.