Murfreesboro, TN (BlueRaiders.com) - MTSU will turn to the dark side in hopes of finding one of its brightest moments tonight.
The Blue Raiders face Troy, the four-time defending Sun Belt Conference champion, on their Blackout night at Floyd Stadium. Kickoff is 7:05 p.m., and it will be televised nationally on ESPN2 (Comcast channel 29).
All players, coaches and fans will don black for the annual Blackout event, which coincides with the Battle for the Palladium — the rivalry between MTSU (2-2, 1-0 in Sun Belt) and Troy (2-2, 1-0), which awards the Palladium trophy to the game's winner.
MTSU has a 2-0 record in Blackout games with a pair of notable wins. The Blue Raiders beat Florida Atlantic 14-13 on a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass in the 2008 Blackout game, which was also aired on ESPN2. Last year's 31-14 win over Memphis on Blackout night set a Floyd Stadium attendance record of 28,105.
The Blue Raiders hope for another victory amid a sizable home crowd tonight.
"I think our students will come. It ought to be a heckuva game," MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. "It will be on national television. I say it all the time: ‘Why wouldn't you come?' It's two good football teams playing. It will be a great night weather-wise, national television and college football at its best. So why wouldn't you come?"
The major storyline is the clash of the Sun Belt's elite. MTSU is the all-time leader in conference wins at 39-25 and owns a share of two Sun Belt titles. Troy has won at least a share of the last four championships after entering the league in 2004, and it touts the Sun Belt's all-time best winning percentage (.795) with a 35-9 conference mark.
The sidebar to tonight's game is the return of record-breaking MTSU quarterback Dwight Dasher, who was suspended the first four games of the season for accepting a loan in violation of NCAA rules.
Dasher, the Sun Belt preseason offensive player of the year, has struggled in his career against the Trojans. He makes his season debut tonight on national TV with conference stakes on the line.
"I'm not going to think about things too much," Dasher said. "This is my first game, and I want to manage it the right way. I just want to do what I can, do things right and help us win."
MTSU has lost four straight to Troy, including a gut-wrenching 21-20 defeat in 2006 that kept the Blue Raiders out of the New Orleans Bowl. Last season, conference runner-up MTSU broke Troy's Sun Belt record for total wins with 10 and it took the champion Trojans' spot in the New Orleans Bowl even though the league champion had gone there the previous eight years.
"(MTSU has) a good program and are well coached and they are going to want to get us, I know, up there especially," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "We have had the best of it of late. I expect to get their best shot. I expect for their quarterback to be back. We'll have to prepare for him and the other guys who have been doing well. They are coming off a win in the league and the winner of the game will certainly be favored to move on, but there is still a lot of football to be played in this conference."