Q&A: Middle Tennessee football writer talks chance of upset, who to watch
In a conversation with The Maneater, Tyler Lamb previews the game between Missouri and Middle Tennessee.
Oct. 18, 2016
Missouri faces Middle Tennessee State at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Tigers’ homecoming game. Tyler Lamb, who covers football for Middle Tennessee State's Sidelines, spoke with The Maneater’s Nick Kelly about what to expect Saturday.
The Maneater: This is a Middle Tennessee team that has made several comebacks this year. How has this team been able to make several comebacks this season?
Tyler Lamb: They never quit. The team has great leadership on both sides of the ball, starting with the quarterback Brent Stockstill, who is the coach's son. He is exactly what you want in a quarterback leading your program.
On defense you have guys like Steven Rhodes, who is a former Marine. He knows how to lead a group of guys. I think it definitely starts with those two guys.
ME: When they’re facing an Southeastern Conference team like Missouri, how is this ability to comeback going to come into play with them being underdogs on Saturday?
TL: This isn’t the first time they’ve played an SEC team this year. They lost against Vanderbilt earlier this year. This is a good opportunity for them to get a signature win. This is something their program has lacked for a few years now. They’ve been able to compete, and that’s all you can ask for. But they haven’t been able to get over that hump. For sports programs, they need to be able to do that.
The basketball program obviously did that last year when they beat Michigan State. Our baseball team has beaten Vanderbilt in baseball the past couple of years. Our cross-country team has done a fantastic job right now; they are ranked in the top 25. Really for this football team, it is about time they get one of these wins they aren’t supposed to win.
They’ve been able to win all of the games they are supposed to, but now I think it is time for them to answer the call and step up and get an upset for themselves.
ME: Who needs to have a big day for them if they are to get the upset?
TL: For them to be able to complete an upset, they need to do what they’ve been doing. That is just being consistent on offense, being explosive and keeping defenses on the edge of their toes. They have a great offensive attack with quarterback Brent Stockstill and wide receiver Richie James and running back I’Tavius Mathers. Those three guys are really the workhorses for this offense. Just last game, Stockstill passed for over 400 yards, James hauled in a couple hundred yards receiving and Mathers rushed for over 100 yards. Although they lost, those are their guys on offense. Teams have had trouble with those three guys all season long. It is like they’re on a different page when playing those schools. We’ll see what they do this week, but it will definitely start with them if they want to complete the upset.
ME: What is Middle Tennessee’s biggest weakness?
TL: It’s probably their secondary. I am hesitant to say that because they’ve won a couple of games for MTSU this year. They were really key in the Louisiana Tech game when they held strong while Louisiana Tech was driving in the final minute of the game. They got to fourth down and had to throw a pass into the end zone, but Mike Minter stepped up and broke up the pass. MTSU went on to win that game.
But at other times, like this past weekend against Western Kentucky, they allowed Mike White to throw for 391 yards. They allowed Taywan Taylor, who is a very similar receiver to J’Mon Moore, they allowed him to catch for 197 yards. You can’t let that happen if you want to win against Western Kentucky, and you especially can’t allow that to happen if you want to win against Missouri.
ME: What is your prediction for the game?
TL: I expect Middle Tennessee to come ready to play. That was a hard loss last week when they lost 44-43. They played hard all game, and unfortunately, their extra point got blocked in double overtime, and that was how the game was decided. I believe they will come back out ready to go. They know the opportunity they’ve been presented with this week. Another reason I think they will come ready to go is because it is a nationally televised game. MTSU may get about two of those all season long. MTSU is comprised of mostly guys from out of state. For guys like Jeremy Cutrer who is from New Orleans or Maurquice Shakir who is from Los Angeles, it is a chance for their family and friends to see them play. I believe they will want to show out for them.
I believe the final score will be 42-21 Missouri. I believe Missouri is too athletic for Middle Tennessee, but I also believe Middle Tennessee will be able to put some points on the board as well.