Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

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Middle Tennessee State without starting QB Brent Stockstill for Minnesota game

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One of the most productive and unheralded quarterbacks in the country won’t see the field in Week 3.

In Middle Tennessee State’s win over Syracuse on the road last weekend, Brent Stockstill sustained a shoulder injury.  The talented redshirt junior didn’t practice at all this week, leading to MTSU announcing shortly before kickoff that Stockstill will not play in today’s road game against Minnesota.

With Stockstill sidelined, the Blue Raiders will start John Urzua under center.  A redshirt sophomore, Urzua completed 78-of-131 pass attempts last season for 816 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

This season, Urzua hadn’t attempted a pass in the first two games before today.

The past two seasons, Stockstill passed for more than 7,200 yards and 61 touchdowns.  This season, he had 435 yards and four touchdowns through two games.

Big Ten, Conference USA swapping bowl tie-in for 2017

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The middle of September isn’t typically the time that bowl arrangements are tweaked but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

Conference USA confirmed details of a bowl tie-in “swap” with the Big Ten on Wednesday, causing a bit of a Texas two-step in the postseason picture for both leagues in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The move on the Big Ten’s end was originally announced back in May but it appears the CUSA end is just now being confirmed officially.

As a result:

  • A Conference USA team will now play in the Armed Forces Bowl. They’ll play against Army if the Black Knights are eligible,
  • The Big Ten will place a team in Heart of Dallas Bowl against vs. a Big 12 opponent

While the exact reason for the swap is unclear, it certainly makes a little more sense for a Big Ten team to be in Dallas against a fellow Power Five conference like the Big 12. In addition, the Big Ten has not had a team filled a slot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl since 2014 and have actually never scored a victory in the game either.

There was supposed to be a B1G squad in the bowl last season but, because of shortages elsewhere in terms of eligible teams, the game wound up being an Army win over an eventual 5-8 North Texas squad.  Conference USA apparently remains contractually tied to the Heart of Dallas Bowl until 2019, just not this year.

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 23 in Fort Worth while the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is slated to be played on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

QB Demry Croft not available to Minnesota for ‘personal issues’

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Minnesota has seen its quarterback position undergo a significant shift over the last 48 hours or so.

Fifth-year senior Conor Rhoda began the 2017 season as the Golden Gophers’ starter under center, although he split time with sophomore Demry Croft in the opener. In Week 2, however, Rhoda accounted for every pass thrown in the win over Oregon State.

Monday, first-year head coach P.J. Fleck announced that Rhoda would be the full-time starter moving forward for his team.  In a development that the coach said did not play a role in that announcement, Fleck revealed a day later that Croft will not be available to the team for the Week 3 game against Middle Tennessee State because of what were only described as personal issues but sure sounded a whole lot like disciplinary measures.

“He is dealing with some personal issues that are way, way more important than football, so it’s my job as a head football coach to get him what he needs,” Fleck said according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We are going to help him any way we can. I’m not going to get into that, in respect to his privacy and his personal life. …

“If you do not do the right thing academically, athletically, socially and spiritually, and you do not uphold the high, high expectations of our culture on and off the field, you will not play. And it does not matter who you are.”

It’s decidedly unclear how long Croft will be unavailable as he attempts to get his academic/athletic/social/spiritual house in order.

With Croft out for the foreseeable future, Seth Green will likely serve as Rhoda’s backup.  A redshirt freshman, Green was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2016 recruiting class who was rated as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  Not surprisingly, Green’s next pass attempt will be his first at the collegiate level

In Scott Shafer’s return to Syracuse, MTSU pulls off 30-23 upset

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You just know that this one feels especially good for Scott Shafer.

In November of 2015, Shafer was fired as the head coach at Syracuse.  Coming off a Week 1 loss to Vanderbilt, Shafer, now the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State, and the Blue Raiders trekked north in Week 2 to take on… the Orange, of course.

“Win this game,” Shafer reportedly told his new team over the summer, “and we’ll be best friends for life.”

Anywhere from 7.5 and 8.5-point underdogs heading into the game, MTSU — and dozens of their coordinator’s new best friends — will head back to Murfreesboro with a 30-23 upset of Shafer’s former team stuffed firmly into their back pockets.  Quarterback Brent Stockstill played a significant role in the upset, passing for 269 yards and three touchdowns on the day.

Shafer’s defense came to play as well.  After running up 586 yards of offense against FCS Central Connecticut in the opener a week ago, ‘Cuse was held to 308 by MTSU.

The game itself was back and forth all afternoon — there were five lead changes — and neither team holding more than a seven-point lead at any point.

After the Orange tied the score at 23-all with 11:07 left in the fourth quarter, Stockstill directed a 10-play drive that was capped by a 10-yard scoring toss to Shane Tucker that proved to be the game-winning score.  ‘Cuse had two more chances to tie the game and send it to overtime, but one drive ended with an interception and another came to an end on downs at the MTSU 38 with under 30 seconds left in the game.

Report: there will be a Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl this year

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I think we can all agree with this: it’s about damn time.

Since the St. Petersburg Bowl was launched in 2008, it’s undergone several name changes, from the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl (2008) to the St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef O’Brady’s (2009) to the Beef O’Grady’s Bowl (2010-13) to the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (2014).  Now, the game that’s been known as the St. Petersburg Bowl the past two seasons is set to undergo its most glorious name change yet as Brett McMurphy is reporting that it will now be known as the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

See, absolutely and utterly glorious.  In a similar vein, move over Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl as we have a new king wearing the “Greatest Bowl Game Name Ever” crown.

Bad Boy Mowers bills itself as “delivering the finest cut lawn care professionals and serious landowners demand;” the fact that the home of the bowl game, Tropicana Field, utilizes Shaw Sports Turf as its playing surface merely serves to add to the greatness of the name. And from where does Gasparilla come? McMurphy describes it as “an attempt to make the bowl seem more regional for the Tampa Bay area since the annual Gasparilla Parade is held each year in Tampa.”

The name change for the game, which pits teams from the AAC and Conference USA against each other, is expected to officially be announced Monday.