Rocket RetrospectWritten by Scott Calhoun | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rocket retrospect week 3
Toledo (3-0;1-0) 42 Temple (0-3) 17
Leading passer: Bruce Gradkowski 20-29 182 yards 1 INT 4 TD passes 1 rush TD
rusher: Trinity Dawson 12-63 yards; 1-13 yards 1 rec. TD
receiver: TE Chris Hopkins 5-56 yards 1 TD
defenders: Keon Jackson 8 tackles: 3 solo 5 asst; 66 yard INT ret. For TD
Tyrrell Herbert 9 tackles: 4 solo 5 asst; forced fumble
Anthony Jordan 8 tackles: 4 solo 4 asst; 1 sack for 13 yd loss
Rocket of the week: While all three defensive gladiators above deserve accolades with their continued prowess, the broken record plays on as senior QB Bruce Gradkowski took honors once again.
This time Almighty’s game played out like a mini-series in and of itself. By early in the 2nd stanza he scooped up two more Rocket career passing records in yards and completions, making him the school’s all time leading QB in the position’s three most prolific stat categories. Conversely his lone INT of the afternoon brought him to a slim career total of 17 through 28 career starts. Gene Swick slung 39 picks during his career, Ryan Huzjak 31, and Chuck Ealey 29.
Meanwhile Bruce now owns 19 primary Rocket passing records.
During the game Gradkowski engineered three touchdown drives in the first half to lead the weekly burial of UT’s latest victim in Temple with a 28-0 lead before the hapless Owls could alter the scoreboard. He would help trespass Temple’s goal line five times, four of them aerially and the other via legwork.
Although accruing only 182 yards passing Gradkowski’s performance in the City of Brotherly Love was appropriately measured best in his team leadership and resilience. After going down with the wind knocked out of him on a 4th down scramble moments before halftime, Gradkowski was held out of the game to begin the second half as redshirt frosh QB Clint Cochrane stepped into to assume field management. Though connecting on all three of his pass attempts, Cochrane could not launch the Rockets downfield for a score. Temple then followed up with a drive that ate up 7:15 of the third quarter clock culminating in a 29 yard FG by Ryan Lux at 4:26. With the tally stewing at 28-10 in favor of UT but the game’s pendulum swung in favor of Temple, Gradkowski stepped back onto the turf to resume his dominant presence on the gridiron. He instantly thwarted Temple’s feeble resurgence guiding UT on a 12-play 4:51 drive climaxing with his one yard TD thrust at 14:27 of the final quarter to put the Rockets up 35-10 and effectively deflate the temporary air beneath the Owls’ wings. Bruce continued to show through his raw play alone why he is truly the ultimate QB in the MAC.
”I took a nice little shot before halftime and the coaches wanted me to sit out the first series of the second half. I just had the wind knocked out of me so I was ready to go,” Gradkowski explained on sitting out the first offensive attack of the latter half of Saturday’s game.
Play of the week:
Let’s go with two equally solid plays, one each on side of the ball:
Senior safety Keon Jackson’s record breaking 66 yard interception return for a score at 4:17 of the first quarter certainly qualifies. With Temple gathering momentum on the way downfield and sporting a 1st and 10 at UT’s 35 yardline Owl QB Mike McGann fired a rocket of his own a few yards to the left side toward his sure-handed wideout Bruce Gordon. The pass reached Gordon’s dome so quickly that he had little time to get his hands up on the ball, resulting in the pigskin deflecting off his fingers up into the air beyond where Jackson, waiting to pound him, instead snagged the ball with a clean green laid out before him. Keon charged untouched 66 yards to get his school record-breaking fourth interception for the six. Rather than Temple potentially cutting the score in half with UT already up 14-0, Jackson’s TD made it 21-zip. ”I thought he (Gordon) was making the catch. I was actually going for the tackle and then I had to react another way to get the ball,” Jackson explained.
After returning to the game and putting the Rockets up 35-10 early in the fourth quarter, Gradkowski then came back into the next offensive series to make his fourth TD pass the most exciting of the day for either team’s offense. With freshman RB Richard Davis lined up behind him Bruce took the snap at the Temple five yard line. He dropped back and appeared to hand the ball off to Davis, who barely gained a yard before being absolutely hammered by three Owl linemen. The problem for Temple was that Davis had been nothing but a perfect decoy for another signature Rocket playaction fake. By the time anyone on or off the field realized that Davis didn’t have the ball Gradkowski spun out, rolled to the left of the line and exhibited his tremendous arm strength in throwing a TD to freshman WR Nick Moore off his nearside while still trotting toward the left. When asked about the play Bruce said, ”It’s the whole offensive unit that has to work on the playaction. The line has to be able to sell the run while I have to hold my fake well. Everyone plays a part in the playaction game.”
Quote of the week:
”We’ve got a new fire into us. Every week we just go into a game thinking ‘we’re going to take over this field. This is our field’,” said sophomore free safety Tyrrell Herbert on the Rockets’ dominant defense through the first three battles. Herbert had nine tackles against Temple, four of them solo, along with s forced fumble that helped lead to a UT score.
Game 3 notes:
Through three games Toledo is 3rd in the nation in scoring with a 53.3 per game average. They trail only Texas Tech (ranked 16th in USA Today’s poll, 19th in AP’s) and the mighty, mighty Trojans of two-time defending national champion and #1 ranked USC. Both the Red Raiders and the Trojans have only played two games to UT’s three.
Other notables: the Rockets offense is 2nd in the nation in 3rd down conversions with 27 and 1st with a conversion percentage of 62.8; 7th in team pass TDs with 9; 9th in rush TDs with 9; and 7th in TD receptions with (everyone all together now) 9. UT’s two interception TDs have them tied first in the nation with Ohio.
The Rockets have outscored opponents 125-0 before allowing a score. They’ve outscored opponents 160-54. Most of the points gathered by Rocket foes have transpired when the game was already owned by UT.
Junior RB Scooter McDougle stepped onto the field finally…as a defensive back. He nearly had an interception in the fourth quarter.