Louisiana "War" Zone

The Blue Raiders must stop Dawson's rushing attack

Wesley Mize previews the Middle Tennessee/Louisiana-Monroe game.

Middle Tennessee will look to pick up its third straight road victory this Saturday when they take on the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. A win this weekend would be the Blue Raiders fourth consecutive victory and will keep Middle in the hunt for another Sun Belt Conference championship.

This will be the eighth overall meeting between the two schools. Middle Tennessee holds a 5-2 advantage since the series began in 1999. Last season, the Blue Raiders picked up a 35-21 victory over the Warhawks in Monroe. Tradition says this weekend's game will be decided after the first score. The team that scored first won each of the past seven meetings.

Saturday's contest features the conference's second best rushing attack in ULM going against MT's number one rush defense. The Warhawks (3-5, 3-2) average 202 rushing yards per game, 47 more than Middle Tennessee allows.

Leading the Monroe rushing attack is tailback Calvin Dawson. Dawson, the reigning Sun Belt offensive player of the week, leads the conference averaging 122 yards per game. That total is good enough for 13th in the nation. He set the school record for most career rushing touchdowns in last week's 33-30 triple overtime victory over Florida Atlantic.

The Blue Raiders (4-5, 3-1) have a current Sun Belt Player of the Week in this game as well. Actually make that two. Defensive end Erik Walden and punter David DeFatta are the reigning defensive and special teams players of the week. Walden had three tackles for loss, a safety, a sack, and an interception against North Texas last Saturday while DeFatta placed three punts on the 1-yard line and made a 39-yard field goal.

Joe Craddock will likely be the starting quarterback for the Blue Raiders on Saturday. Dwight Dasher, who took over at quarterback after Craddock was injured, suffered a left-knee injury in last week's game. Blue Raider head coach Rick Stockstill has said it's unlikely that Dasher will play on Saturday but it hasn't completely been ruled out.

Craddock ranks second in the conference in passing efficiency only behind Dasher. He hasn't started since suffering a back injury in week three against LSU. Craddock has thrown for 653 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Middle Tennessee can put some distance between themselves and the Warhawks in the conference standings with a win Saturday. The Blue Raiders are currently tied for second in the conference while ULM sits fourth just one game back. Saturday's kickoff at Malone Stadium is set for 6 p.m.

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