QB's return bolsters Middle Tennessee for bowl game vs. Hawaii

While the month between the final regular-season game and a bowl game can affect teams, the plus side of it is getting injured players back.

That's what will happen for Middle Tennessee on Saturday at the Hawaii Bowl, where it expects to get the services of redshirt sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill back as it takes on the host Rainbow Warriors at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

Stockstill, who missed the final three games of the regular season with a broken collarbone suffered in a Nov. 5 loss to Texas-San Antonio, threw for 2,801 yards and 27 touchdowns in nine games. He completed nearly 64 percent of his passes and tossed only five interceptions in 363 attempts.

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"Brent has had a good week of practice," said his father, Blue Raiders coach Rick Stockstill. "He has had a couple of positive checkups and we are preparing like he will be under center for us come Saturday."

The return of Stockstill should only provide more juice to an offense that averaged just over 40 points per game in an 8-4 season, topping it off with a 77-point explosion in the regular-season finale, a win over Florida Atlantic.

Ole Miss transfer I'Tavius Mathers is one of the top dual-threat running backs in college football. Mathers rushed for 1,504 yards and 16 touchdowns this year while catching 62 passes for 589 yards and three more scores.

Wide receiver Richie James latched on to 97 passes for 1,463 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Ty Lee added 53 catches for 599 yards and seven scores. With all those skilled players to choose from, it's no wonder Middle Tennessee averaged 515.7 yards per game and scored 62 touchdowns.

On paper, its matchup with the Hawaii defense looks good, as the Warriors are permitting 37.5 points and 455.4 yards per game. But Blue Raiders offensive lineman Chandler Brewer says the Hawaii defense poses problems.

"They get to the ball pretty fast," he said. "We just have to keep our eyes in the right places and we should be able to take care of it."

The Rainbows wouldn't have made a bowl game had enough teams finished with winning records. But their 6-7 record was good enough because they had the advantage of a 13th regular-season game, which they used to edge Massachusetts 46-40 on Nov. 26.

Quarterback Dru Brown completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,214 yards and 15 touchdowns. The top receiver is Marcus Kemp, who caught 70 balls for 1,036 yards and seven scores.

It will be Hawaii's seventh appearance in the Hawaii Bowl but its first since 2010.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of this team and especially these seniors who'll be able to say they played in a bowl game," first-year Warriors coach Nick Rolovich said.