"We couldn't let them out-physical us this year. When we played them last year that wasn't us. We let them run over us, but obviously this one was a different story because we were tougher. And the weather didn't bother us. We love playing in this. We hoped it would snow."
- Middle Tennessee linebacker Danny Carmichael to the Daily News Journal
Times MT sacked WKU QB David Wolke.
4 Number of passes MT completed for more than 20 yards.
Combined number of tackles for loss between MT and WKU.
With bowl eligibility and revenge on its mind, Middle Tennessee turned back Western Kentucky 21-10 in Bowling Green Saturday, avenging last season's Hilltopper upset in Murfreesboro and keeping a six win season within reach.
The Blue Raider defense limited the normally potent WKU rushing offense to just 68 yards and pressured Hilltopper quarterback David Wolke all afternoon in cold, wet, and blustery conditions.
Trailing 14-3 late in the third quarter, Western Kentucky's offense was showing signs of life on a long drive that started from its own three yard line and had moved all the way to the MT 30. After a first down incomplete pass, the Blue Raider defense dropped the hammer. Wes Hofacker broke through for a sack on second down that resulted in a 14 yard loss. Teammates Jamari Lattimore and Chris McCoy joined forces to drop Wolke again on the next play for an eight yard loss, forcing a fourth down punt. MT took its next possession 87 yards in nine plays for a touchdown that put the Blue Raiders up 21-3.
RB Phillip Tanner: The junior running back had a terrific performance and made arguably the play of the game late in the second quarter with MT clinging to a 7-3 lead. The Blue Raiders had squandered some earlier opportunities and were in danger of missing another one when Tanner looked stopped behind the line on 4th-and-short. But he bounced off tacklers and got to the corner before outracing all defenders to the end zone. He finished the game with 92 yards on 27 carries.
WR Sancho McDonald: McDonald led the way for the Raiders in receiving and made the key catch that put the game out of reach for WKU. Facing 3rd-and-13 early in the fourth quarter, McDonald made a juggling catch of a deep throw from Craddock for a 33 yard touchdown. The catch put the Blue Raiders up 21-3 and was the biggest play of McDonald's four catch, 56 yard performance.
P David DeFatta: DeFatta had his best game of the year against WKU, combining both power and precision to help MT win the field position battle. His biggest highlight was a 71 yard bomb in the third quarter that flipped field position and pinned the Hilltoppers inside their own five. That punt was with an 18 mile-per-hour wind at his back, but DeFatta kicked well against the wind as well. He had a 47-yarder into the wind when MT's first drive failed to earn a first down. For the game, his efforts helped the Blue Raiders win the net punting battle by nearly 10 yards per punt.
QB Joe Craddock: The senior quarterback went the distance for the Blue Raiders and had a great day throwing the football. Even in very adverse conditions, Craddock was spot on with most of his throws and finished the game with very efficient numbers. He didn't throw any interceptions and completed several nice deep balls, including a pair over the middle to Eldred King and Malcolm Beyah in traffic.
LB Danny Carmichael: Several defensive players could make strong cases for game balls, but Carmichael gets the edge here for his versatile effort. He was a key factor in stopping the usually strong WKU ground game and he also contributed one of MT's five sacks. He finished with seven tackles overall to rank second on the team behind Ivon Hickmon.
Prior to the game, it could have rightly been billed as a battle between WKU's ground game against MT's air raid. With the cold, windy, and wet conditions in Bowling Green, the weather would have seemed to favor the Hilltoppers. Consider the conventional wisdom wrong. The Blue Raiders not only dominated WKU on the ground, but their passing game didn't seem bothered at all by the elements. Craddock threw the ball crisply and were it not for a couple of drops, the senior signal caller would have had an even higher completion percentage.
Average field position: MT's average starting field position of its own 35 yard line was eight yards better than WKU's average starting point.
Third down prosperity: MT converted 9 of 17 third downs in the game and limited to WKU to just 3 of 12.
Fourth quarter keep away: With WKU desperately trying to rally, the Blue Raiders held the ball for 9:10 in the fourth quarter.
NOTES AND TIDBITS
With 212 yards passing against WKU, senior Joe Craddock moved past Andrico Hines for ninth place on the all-time passing yardage list and topped the 200-yard mark in a game for the 10th time. Craddock, who has done virtually all of his work in two years, now has 3,518 career passing yards. Craddock is now chasing Phil Ironside for eighth place (3,533 yards from 1988 to 1990) ... Craddock also tossed his 23rd and 24th career touchdowns when he hit Malcolm Beyah on a 9-yard pass in the first quarter and Sancho McDonald from 33 yards out in the fourth. The 24 TDs breaks Craddock from a tie for ninth place on the all-time list with Bob Hallum. Craddock now has 12 touchdown passes on the season and all 24 career scoring strikes have come in the last 22 games ... Middle Tennessee finished its non-conference season with a 2-3 record which is the first time the Blue Raiders have had two non-league wins since 2002 ... DT Trevor Jenkins made his team-best 35th straight start ... David DeFatta's 71-yard punt in the third quarter was the longest of his career and bettered his previous mark of 70 set against Troy in 2007 ... The 87-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter was the second longest of the season behind the 91-yard drive at Louisville ... Craddock's 19 completions ran his season total to 196 which is fourth on the single-season list and just one shy of third place.
NEXT UP Nov. 22: Middle Tennessee vs. North Texas, 2:30
* Notes and Tidbits courtesy of MT Media Relations.