Blog: Not what we were expecting

It was an ugly affair in Middle Tennessee's 27-21 season-opening loss to McNeese State earlier tonight. The Blue Raiders came out with hopes of erasing the rotten memories of last season, but unfortunately they gave fans little to cheer for during the mostly one-sided affair that saw very few signs of improvement from last year's abysmal performance.

Despite a late push by the home team, the Cowboys outpaced Rick Stockstill's squad for most of the game and took advantage of various deficiencies in Middle Tennessee's team. Both the offense and the defense were simply outmatched for four quarters, giving fans legitimate cause for concern about the remaining 11 games in 2012.

I sat down to write a true postgame wrap, but I honestly don't believe that's what people are looking for right now so I'm just going to give my observations from this ugly, ugly opener . . .

To start with, there is very little evidence of improvement from last season – especially when you consider the opponent was an FCS team that went 6-5 in 2011. Both the offense and the defense seemed to pick up exactly where they left off that cold December day in Denton just eight months ago.

Let's start with the defense, which can be summed up as follows: same game, different coordinator. Tyrone Nix was brought in to help shore up a unit that seemingly gave up season highs to every opponent they faced last year. Unfortunately, his first game at the helm saw the opponent earn 450 total yards and his defense create zero turnovers.

The biggest thing that stood out to me from the defense's performance was the seeming inability to wrap up and bring down Cowboy players. The amount of yards McNeese players earned after initial contact was staggering. All three units struggled to bring down their opponents throughout the game, which is tough to stomach considering the same issue plagued Middle Tennessee last year.

On offense, Buster ball fell flat in its first public showing. Middle Tennessee started the game with two solid drives that were centered around extremely conservative playcalling. At the time, it seems the theory was to give the young offensive line some confidence and get the entire unit into a groove. By the third possession however, the Cowboy defense had things figured out and shut the Blue Raider attack down.

Unfortunately very little was done to alter the approach during the half. The offense only managed a meager 50 yards on three drives throughout the third quarter. The fact that McNeese State extended their lead to 18 points during that same time frame only made that stat harder to stomach.

Eventually, the Blue Raider offense was able to put something together, scoring two touchdowns through the air during the fourth quarter. Unfortunately it proved to be too little, too late as the defense couldn't get the Cowboy offense off the field in time to give Logan Kilgore another chance.

It's easy to sit down after a loss like that and blame one team's inefficiency for the outcome, but in this case McNeese did as much to win this game as Middle did to lose it – which was a lot. You can look at the costly penalties during key situations for the Blue Raiders and say ‘what if?' but you also have to acknowledge the outstanding performance of Cowboy running Marcus Wiltz and his 105 rushing yards.

There was one positive in this game for Middle Tennessee and his name was Jordan Parker. The true freshman's 39 yards rushing led the team, but it was the way in which he did it that can give Blue Raider fans something to look forward to over the next three months. His 4.3 yards per carry were hard earned as he spun, fought and twisted through Cowboy defenders and seemed to have Middle Tennessee's offense rolling before a poorly-timed interception stole the momentum.

Still, Parker's performance is overshadowed by the negative aspects of this game that will undoubtedly have fans calling for Stockstill's job over the coming days. While it's true that there is still a lot of season to go, it's also true that after last season, fans were looking for something worth caring about again, and this didn't give it to them.

It's going to be a long week for the Blue Raider players, staff and fans as they all try to make sense of the way this game ended up and hope that next week will yield different results as they kick off Sun Belt play. Until then, keep it tuned to BlueRaiderZone for more exclusive coverage and talk.

Blue Raider Power Top Stories