MURFREESBORO – Rick Stockstill insists his Middle Tennessee State football team is grounded, even in the wake of the most successful season since the program moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Just to make sure, though, he and his symbolically dug a hole in the ground Thursday night at the first team meeting of the 2010 season.
“We had a mock funeral to bury the New Orleans Bowl Trophy and the 10-win season (Thursday) night because that is behind us now and our focus is on the upcoming season,” Stockstill said. “There is nothing we did last year that will help us this year. We are not going to practice differently because we won 10 games last year. We have to go out and prove something every day.”
With that bit of ceremony behind them, the Blue Raiders took to the practice field for the first time Friday afternoon.
What lies ahead is a schedule that includes games against a Big Ten opponents (Minnesota) and one from the Atlantic Coast Conference (Georgia Tech). There also figures to be a lot of attention focused on quarterback Dwight Dasher, who last season became the fourth players in NCAA history to pass for at least 2,500 yards and rush for at least 1,000 in the same season.
What’s passed is now officially in the past. A 10-3 record. A 42-32 victory over Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl. And everything else that took place last fall.
“We just put an end to the 2009 season,” defensive tackle Dwight Smith said. “It was celebrated a lot like they do in New Orleans. It was pretty cool. We just put the New Orleans Bowl behind us, and set new goals for this year."
There already are some obvious differences from a year ago, most notably on the coaching staff. Stockstill has two new coordinators – Mike Schultz to run the offense and Randall McCray to run the defense.
“We’re a grounded team,” Stockstill said. “We’re a hungry team, a team with a chip on our shoulder to go out and prove something.”