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Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)



Monday, December 30, 11:45 a.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Brandon Lawrence, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: After beating Army Dec. 14 in Philadelphia, the Navy Midshipmen will try to keep the winning trend alive as they play Middle Tennessee in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.

Navy (8-4) defeated Army, 34-7, thanks in large part to starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. The Midshipmen have won four in a row and five of their last six games with wins over Pitt, San Jose State and Hawaii included.

Middle Tennessee (8-4) is also on its own win streak, having won five straight entering the Armed Forces Bowl, most recently over Conference-USA foe UTEP, 48-17, on Nov. 30. In those five wins, the Blue Raiders have outscored their opponents, 213-108, recording at least 42 points in their last three games.

It will be the first meeting between these two programs. For Navy, it's the program's 10th bowl game appearance in the past 11 seasons, but the first trip to the Armed Forces Bowl. Middle Tennessee is making its fourth bowl game appearance under eight-year head coach Rick Stockstill.

"I talk to them (the players) every day about the history of the bowl and the history and tradition of Navy," Stockstill said. "Just how lucky we are as coaches and players that we are able to do this because something greater than us. This is a special game."

On offense, the Blue Raiders aren't extremely explosive in terms of individual performances this season, but as a unit, especially recently, Middle Tennessee has dominated with the ball in the offense's hands.

The Blue Raiders are led by quarterback Logan Kilgore, who completed 197- of-322 pass attempts this season for 2,289 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. The Blue Raiders average 404.6 yards per game offensively.

Running back Jordan Parker gained 741 yards and scored six touchdowns on 145 carries in 10 games played this season, while a combination of receivers Tavarres Jefferson, Marcus Henry and Kyle Griswould scored 12 times on touchdown receptions.

The Middle Tennessee defense will be busy trying to stop Reynolds and Navy's powerful rushing attack. The Blue Raiders as a unit rank 85th in the country in rushing defense, giving up an average of 185.4 rushing yards per game.

Much of the responsibility for keeping track of Reynolds should fall on sophomore linebacker T.T. Barber, who led the Blue Raiders in tackles with 112 this season. He was also first on the team in tackles for loss with 10.5 and had three sacks.

Barber showed his versatility in 2013 by intercepting three passes, recording two pass breakups and forcing two fumbles.

Redshirt sophomore safety Kevin Byard led the team with five interceptions and five pass breakups. He and the rest of the defensive backfield will be charged with being the last line of defense if the Midshipmen break a big run.

Stockstill said his team has been gearing up for a bowl game since day one, and even when the Blue Raiders were 3-4 to start the season, his team never stopped believing.

"We knew what our goal was and what we had to do to get there," he said. "That's why I have so much respect for our team. I've seen the sacrifices and adversity they've overcome to get to this point. This is a special team to me."

The Blue Raiders will have Reynolds to contend with on offense. Reynolds is the key piece of a Midshipmen attack that ranks second in the FBS in rushing yards per game. The Midshipmen average 322 rushing yards, which makes up the majority of the team's 413.5 total offensive yards per game.

Reynolds was also efficient in the team's limited passing game. He completed 65 of his 121 pass attempts in 12 games this season for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns with only two interceptions. His average of 86.5 passing yards per game tells the story of a team set on pounding the ball on the ground.

The sophomore quarterback is by far the team's leading rusher. On 280 carries, Reynolds gained 1,260 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns, which ranks first in the country for one player. He ranks second in quarterback rushing yards behind Northern Illinois senior Jordan Lynch.

The only other player on Navy that has received over 100 touches this season is sophomore fullback Chris Swain. The 5-foot-11, 232-pound fullback has carried it 102 times for 398 yards and four touchdowns.

The Midshipmen average 5.5 yards per rush, and have outscored their opponents on the ground this season, 47 touchdowns to 17.

Only two players on the Midshipmen roster have recorded double-digit receptions this season. Receivers Casey Bolena and DeBrandon Sanders have caught 13 and 12 passes, respectively, this year for a combined 381 yards and one touchdown. Matt Aiken is the only player in the Navy receiving corps with two touchdown receptions.

Who says ground games can't be effective? The Midshipmen have certainly proven that a strong running game can lead to a winning record and bowl appearance.

Defensively, Navy struggles to reach the opposing quarterback in the backfield. The Midshipmen only recorded 10 sacks in 12 games this season, with no defensive player recording more than two statistically.

Cody Peterson is the team's leading tackler with 135. Three players on Navy's defense have recorded three interceptions each this season, and one of those three players (Chris Johnson) has two fumble recoveries.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo said this game is very special for Navy, as it gets a chance to represent the country in the most suited bowl game.

"What this bowl represents is more than a football game," Niumatalolo said. "Being from the United States Naval Academy to be part of such an event that celebrates the lives of those Americans, we feel very blessed."

Shutting down Navy's ground game is much easier said than done. The Blue Raiders have struggled with run defense this season, a trend that is likely to continue in this game.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 30, Middle Tennessee 24

12/25 09:59:59 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
STL
 
Final
ORL 100
MIL 115
Final
IND 103
NYK 82
Final
MEM 99
DEN 69
Final
LAL 123
CHI 118
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
MIN
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
HOU
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
POR
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CLE
SAC
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BRK
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
MIA
DAL
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NOP
LAC
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UTA
GSW
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PHO
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PROV 83
DEP 72
Final
RUTG 51
MSU 71
Final
ARMY 71
BU 67
 
Final
RFLSH 75
BRY 68
 
Final
MERC 75
CHAT 72
 
Final
LIU 67
CCST 55
 
Final
TOWS 74
COC 70
 
Final
UMASS 66
DAY 64
Final
FUR 59
ETST 55
 
Final
ODU 71
FIU 56
Final
RMU 87
FD 65
 
Final
CHAR 86
FATL 61
Final
LIB 53
HIGH 72
 
Final
UNF 86
KNST 67
 
Final
FLGC 78
LIP 62
 
Final
OSU 80
MD 56
Final
Terriers 73
MNTER 67
 
Final
STET 85
NKENTUCKY 75
 
Final
WAGN 75
SHU 64
 
Final
GMAS 68
STLU 60
Final
JVU 65
USCU 78
 
Final
VMI 70
WCU 85
 
Final
LATU 69
WKENT 56
Final
UNCG 42
WOFF 58
 
Final
DET 93
YOUNG 87
 
Final
GSOUT 83
APP 46
 
Final
TENNM 81
EILL 51
 
Final
GHND 64
HC 54
 
Final
CIN 70
UCONN 58
Final
NDST 61
DEN 54
 
Final
SD 55
MAST 66
 
Final
UWMIL 71
ILLCH 65
 
Final
BEL 103
JVST 82
 
Final
SMISS 54
MARS 69
Final
TXSA 69
MTST 58
Final
PETE 49
RIDE 58
 
Final
SEMIZ 61
SIUE 75
 
Final
TENST 64
TENT 56
 
Final
NDAK 60
WEBER 67
 
Final
SALA 89
LALAF 85
 
Final
ARKST 65
ARKLR 75
 
Final
TROY 55
LAMON 58
 
Final
TXARL 74
UGST 88
 
Final
MURST 85
EKENT 78
 
Final
NCOL 79
IDST 76
 
Final
MIZZ 53
KENT 69
Final
GONZ 64
PORT 46
Final
UTEP 71
UAB 69
Final
GRCN 78
UMKC 57
 
Final
WLVRN 78
CHIST 62
 
Final
USC 94
COL 98
Final
UCI 67
CPSL 57
 
Final
CSNO 73
HAW 84
 
Final
PAC 43
PEPP 50
 
Final
SDU 69
SCU 64
 
Final
UCD 70
UCSB 64
 
Final
UCLA 69
UTAH 59
Final
PORST 54
MONT 73
 
Final
SACST 75
MNTST 59
 
Final
CSFU 85
LBSU 91
 
Final
GAELS 68
LMU 54
 
Final
WASU 67
CAL 76
Final
BYU 78
USF 74
 
6:00pm Tonight
PRIN
HARV
 
7:00pm Tonight
CORN
BRO
 
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PENN
DART
 
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NIAG
MAR
 
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CAN
QUIN
 
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MAN
SIENA
 
8:00pm Tonight
WILL
IUPUI
 
8:00pm Tonight
FAIR
MON
 
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ARST
OREG
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CLMB
YALE
 
10:00pm Tonight
BUF
KSU
 
10:00pm Tonight
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ORST
Final
NYI 2
BOS 5
Final
NYR 0
MON 1
Final
PHI 5
WIN 2
Final
TOR 1
ARI 3
Final
FLA 3
CLB 2
Final
TAM 5
DET 1
Final
STL 5
NAS 4
Final
CAL 0
MIN 1
Final
SJS 6
ANA 3
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
PIT
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
STL
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
NAS
 
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
BUF
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
CHI