Colleges: MTSU off and running in 2010, even in defeat

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 11:30pm
Staff reports

Other Sun Belt Conference teams ran for more yards than Middle Tennessee State in the opening weekend of the 2010 season. None ran at a better clip, though.

The Blue Raiders, who led the conference in rushing offense in 2009, averaged 6.6 yards per carry in their 24-17 loss to Minnesota last Thursday. None of the other six Sun Belt teams that played averaged better than 4.8.

“I felt the strength of our team coming into the season was our running game,” coach Rick Stockstill said Tursday. “Phillip (Tanner) played well for a bit last year before getting hurt. Benny (Cunningham) had a great summer and fall camp and is progressing well. D.D. (Kyles) had a good year last year.

“We have three really strong running backs and when our offensive line is healthy, we can be really effective.”

Tanner had a team-high 75 yards on just eight attempts (9.4 yards per carry) in his return from a knee injury, which caused him to miss almost al of last season. Kyles added 32 yards on three attempts (10.7) and Cunningham, a sophomore out of Goodpasture, dded 31 on seven attempts (4.1).

“No matter how well you play in practice you wonder if you can still do it in the game,” Tanner said. “After the first series you start to loosen up and realize you can still play this game. It was a humbling experience to get back on the field because you never know when your last play will be.”

The Blue Raiders’ next game is 6 p.m. Saturday at home against Austin Peay, which leads the Ohio Valley Conference with 306 rushing yards and a 7.3 per carry average following a 38-6 victory over Cumberland.

Fast starter: Tennessee State’s Rayshawn Weatherspoon was named Ohio Valley Conference Specialist of the Week after he set a John Merritt Classic record with an 89-yard kickoff return Saturday.

The redshirt-freshman from Pittsburgh, Tenn., set the record when he scored a touchdown on the opening kickoff. That helped send the Tigers to a 27-14 victory over Alabama A&M.

He also played defensive back and had one tackle with four passes defensed.

Landmark victory: Belmont volleyball coach Deane Webb earned his 300th career victory when his team defeated Weber State on Saturday at the Nevada Invitational.

The Bruins missed an opportunity to win the match in the fourth set and had to go a fifth to present their coach with the milestone, 25-20, 16-25, 25-18, 23-25, 15-4.

Webb’s career record is 300-166. Nearly half his victories (138) have been with Belmont, which makes him the winningest coach in program history.

“There’s a coaching saying that I agree with that says ‘Good players make good coaches’, and seeing a 300th win as a college coach reminds me how fortunate I’ve been to coach all the wonderful players that earned all of these victories,” Webb said.

Belmont returns home to face Tennessee-Chattanooga 7 p.m., Tuesday at Curb Event Center.

Briefly

• Former MTSU catcher Michael McKenry joined the Colorado Rockies on Monday after being promoted from the team’s AAA affiliate. He hit .265 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI in 99 games for the Colorado Sky Sox.

• Trevecca Nazarene’s men’s and women’s cross country teams made their debuts last Friday at the Balmont-Vanderbilt open. Sophomore Emily Smith (104th in the women’s 4K) was the top Trevecca finisher and was second among all NAIA participants.

The university added the teams in March as part of its pursuit of NCAA Division II affiliation.