MURFREESBORO - The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are going bowling for the second time in four years.
Middle Tennessee was officially extended an invitation on Sunday for Rick Stockstill's Blue Raiders to represent the Sun Belt Conference as an at-large team in the ninth annual R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20. It will mark the second bowl game of the FBS (I-A) era for Middle Tennessee and the sixth bowl game in school history.
The game against Conference USA representative Southern Miss will be played at the Louisiana Superdome, home of the NFL's undefeated New Orleans Saints, at 7:30 PM before a nationwide television audience on ESPN. It will mark the first meeting between the schools.
"We are thrilled to extend our season in New Orleans and appreciate the invitation by the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl," said Director of Athletics Chris Massaro. "It is a great bowl for our players and fans and we can't wait to get there. We are proud to be one of just two schools in the state of Tennessee going to a bowl game and we will represent the state well.
"It has also been a pleasure working with Troy, the New Orleans Bowl, the GMAC Bowl and the Sun Belt Conference in moving our league forward. Troy is able to matchup against a conference champion in the GMAC Bowl which allowed us the opportunity to go to New Orleans and the Sun Belt has now put two teams in postseason play for the third time in four years."
Under Stockstill, the Blue Raiders put together one of the top seasons in school history by going 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. The nine wins are the most regular season victories since 1992 and the seven league wins are the most ever by the Blue Raiders as a member of the Sun Belt. Middle Tennessee enters the New Orleans Bowl riding a six-game winning streak which ranks as the sixth longest in the country.
"One of our goals entering the season was to play in a bowl game and I am extremely proud of our team and coaching staff for accomplishing this," said Stockstill. "It has been a great year and to win nine games with our schedule is a testament to our players. This team is very deserving of a 13th game.
"We are very excited about this bowl game and the location of New Orleans. We expect our fans and families to take full advantage and attend the game."
The Blue Raiders (9-3) will be facing a Southern Miss team that finished 7-5 and was one win from facing Houston in the Conference USA Championship game. The Golden Eagles also have some familiar faces in the coaching staff as Head Coach Larry Fedora, assistants Blake Anderson and Todd Bradford, and Director of Football Operations Gary Camp are all former Middle Tennessee staff members.
"We are playing an excellent opponent in Southern Miss who had an excellent chance to be C-USA champs," said Stockstill. "They are very well coached in all three phases of the game and have some very impressive wins this season. I have not watched them on tape but they have a great tradition and we will have to play our best to compete with them."
Fans need to purchase tickets through the Middle Tennessee ticket office by calling 1-888-YES-MTSU or logging onto GoBlueRaiders.com. Tickets for the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl are $40 and it will include an official "Blueout" T-Shirt. The commemorative shirt will be a collector's item and fans are encouraged to wear it at the game.
The Blue Raiders will do lifting and conditioning work on Monday and Tuesday before returning to the practice field on Wednesday. The team will practice Wednesday through next Tuesday, then leave for New Orleans on December 16.
Middle Tennessee Bowl History
1956 Refrigerator Bowl - Evansville, IN
Sam Houston State 27, MT 13
1960 Tangerine Bowl - Orlando, FL
MT 21, Presbyterian 12
1961 Tangerine Bowl - Orlando, FL
Lamar Tech 21, MT 14
1964 Grantland Rice Bowl - Murfreesboro, TN
MT 20, Muskingum 0
2006 Motor City Bowl - Detroit, MI
Central Michigan 31, MT 14