Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill has changed his tune. Following Middle Tennessee's loss to Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl, the Blue Raiders head coach took on a bit of a defiant tone when asked about what was perceived as dirty play by his team, particularly linebacker Roderic Blunt, who was ejected after receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
After reviewing the tape Stockstill felt the need to apologize.
“After seeing the replay of the game, I saw things that I was unable to see live from the sideline," said Stockstill. "I have called Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, quarterback Keenan Reynolds, and Brant Ringler, the executive director of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, and apologized for Roderic Blunt's actions."
“I understand the game of football and what goes on out on the field, but there is no place for that type of behavior. It was a very emotional game for both sides, played with a lot of passion and sometimes players get caught up in that emotion. However, the bottom line is we hold ourselves to high standards and we expect our players to be good representatives of our university. Roderic knows the consequences of his actions. As head coach, I will take steps to ensure our team understands the importance of proper behavior and the conduct we expect as Blue Raiders.”
Blunt apologized as well, issuing a statement on the school's website.
“I would like to apologize to my team, coaching staff, Navy, and most importantly, Keenan Reynolds for my actions Monday,” Blunt said. “I accept responsibility and the consequences of my actions. It was my last college game and emotions were at an all-time high. But there is still no excuse for my actions and know this is not a reflection of Blue Raider football.”
If you didn't see the game, essentially the Middle Tennessee defense played through the echo of the whistle, though Blunt took things a bit too far a touch too often. Whether it was a forearm to the head of a running back after he was already out of bounds, ripping the ball out of the hands of a player long after the play was over, shoving a player in the back long after the play was over, or reaching into Keenan Reynolds' facemask to poke him in the eyes following a play. Reynolds had to miss three plays due to blurred vision.
So, yes, there's playing tough and playing mean, and then there's the way Blunt played throughout the game. Frankly, if he were apologizing to me I'd just respond with a hand gesture and it wouldn't be a thumbs up.