December 13, 2016

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill is optimistic the Blue Raiders will have their starting quarterback cleared to return from a broken collarbone when they play Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.

Brent Stockstill broke his right collarbone in the second quarter Nov. 5 in a 45-25 loss to UTSA, knocking the lefthander out of the final three games of the season. His backup, John Urzua, suffered a concussion in the Blue Raiders' 77-56 win over Florida Atlantic in the regular season finale on Nov. 25 and has yet to be cleared as well.

Rick Stockstill said his quarterback and son has been practicing for a while and is throwing the ball well.

''Each week we get an X-ray to see how the healing is coming along, and it's coming along good,'' Stockstill said Tuesday. ''We don't know yet. We are preparing like it's going to be OK, but we won't know that for another few days. I'm optimistic with what I've seen and what he has done so far. With John, (he) hasn't been cleared yet. ... I think by the time we leave for Hawaii he will be cleared, but today he is not.''

After losing their starting quarterback, the Blue Raiders won two of their final three games to finish 8-4 and be bowl eligible for the seventh time in the last eight seasons and eight of 11 in coach Stockstill's tenure. They beat FAU after Urzua left after having thrown only six passes by tapping wide receivers Richie James and Dennis Andrews and running back I'Tavius Mathers to throw at least one pass apiece in winning the game.

Stockstill tried to talk his way back onto the field in that game, but his coach and father stood firm.

Having Stockstill back for the bowl game Dec. 24 against Hawaii (6-7) will be a big boost for Middle Tennessee. The 6-foot, 206-pound redshirt sophomore already has school records for 57 career touchdown passes and 13 300-yard passing games along with averaging 297.7 yards passing per game.

He's a big reason why Middle Tennessee ranked ninth in total offense with 515.7 yards per game and 12th in passing offense with 317 yards passing per game. Stockstill has completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 2,801 yards with 27 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.

Stockstill said Tuesday he feels healthy.

''I feel like if it was up to me, I'd say I'm ready to go, but it's not up to me,'' Stockstill said. ''We'll just keep checking in with the doctors. I'm very optimistic about it, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. We'll see what happens.''

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