Blue Raiders eager to show they can win in C-USA - WSMV Channel 4

Blue Raiders eager to show they can win in C-USA

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) - The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders have all sorts of motivation for their first season as new members of Conference USA, and competing for the league title is right there at the top.

Coach Rick Stockstill said that's their goal from the start, and he doesn't want his Blue Raiders waiting until halfway through the season realizing they have a chance to be pretty good and win the conference title.

"Are we good enough to do that? We'll find out," Stockstill said.

Middle Tennessee went 8-4 in its final season in the Sun Belt Conference. The Blue Raiders already were on their way out when snubbed for a bowl berth. That disappointment of not getting a bowl berth remains very fresh for his players. Cornerback Kenneth Gilstrap said he thought of the bowl snub just before the Blue Raiders started August practice and feels disrespected.

"We handle our business this year we won't have to worry about it," Gilstrap said. "It's a whole new year. You can't live off last year, and last year's going to do nothing for us. I few want to be good, we have to work hard."

Stockstill has enough experience back from that team to make the Blue Raiders' debut in a new league go a bit smoother. He has nine starters back on offense and seven on defense.

The offense is led by senior quarterback Logan Kilgore, who completed 63.3 percent of his passes in 2012 while throwing for 2,571 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. The 6-foot-3 Kilgore is the only the second quarterback in Middle Tennessee history to throw for at least 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

Kilgore lost receiver Anthony Amos to graduation and running back Benny Cunningham now is playing in the NFL. Amos led the team with 72 catches for 992 yards and nine touchdowns. Tavarres Jefferson played only one game last season before redshirting, and he's now back as a senior trying to fulfill the promise of 2011 when he caught 51 passes.

"We've got more weapons outside for Logan at receiver than we had from the halfway point on last year, so I'm excited about that," Stockstill said. "And I think Logan has matured and improved greatly as a quarterback going into his senior year. It gives you a comfort level as a coach that you've got some senior wide receivers out there."

On defense, seven starters are back from a unit that ranked 53rd nationally in pass efficiency defense.

"Our whole defensive unit has to improve in every area," co-defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said.

Online: AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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