Rockets should be able to corral BroncosWritten by Scott Calhoun | | firstname.lastname@example.org
UT will travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., Sept. 9 to open its Mid-American Conference and MAC West Division slate against the Western Michigan Broncos.
The Rockets are fresh off an impressive game at Iowa State Aug. 31. The Cyclones barely escaped in triple OT, 45-43.
That promising start should be a catalyst for another successful season, Rockets Head Coach Tom Amstutz said.
“I thought we came out as a team and showed some good things. I thought our test of our character was good. We battled through the whole game and all of that is a really good sign,” Amstutz said.
The Rockets have to temporarily readjust their sights on inter-conference play against WMU.
“I look at Western Michigan as the most improved team in the MAC last year,” Amstutz said. “They started off early in the year with a couple of losses and then had a huge winning streak. I don’t look at this game lightly.”
While Toledo is still adapting to a reloading process at important offensive positions, the Broncos are experiencing a similar recharge.
One significant difference when these two clash: the absence of last year’s Co-MAC MVPs in Toledo’s departed quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and graduated Western wide receiver Greg Jennings.
Toledo redshirt sophomore quarterback Clint Cochran is establishing himself as a worthy replacement to Gradkowski with a remarkable 367-yard, three-TD performance against Iowa State. Cochran connected on 39 of 49 pass attempts and added a rushing TD in his second career start. The 39 completions in a game were good for second place all time behind only Gradkowski.
His rapid emergence in the loaded Rocket offense doesn’t bode well for a Western Michigan defense that finished 96th in points allowed in 2005 and even worse in yards allowed.
As for replacing Jennings, Broncos redshirt freshman Jamarko Simmons offered new chug to the WMU receiver set with seven grabs for 100 yards in its 39-20 loss at Indiana.
WMU would like to think they have a strong quarterback counterpart in senior Ryan Cubit.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, Cubit, who missed most of last season with an injury, again crumbled to the turf in mid-game during the third quarter against the Hoosiers with an unidentified injury to his throwing hand or wrist. His availability against UT remains uncertain.
UT junior Jalen Parmele, sophomore Richard Davis and redshirt freshman DeJuane Collins will look to get things going in a big way after Parmele garnered just 66 yards on 18 carries and Davis 8 yards on three cradles at Iowa State. Both also scored a touchdown versus the Cyclones, but the complete absence of Collins in last week’s game begged the question of whether he will get in the huddle versus Western.
“We plan on using the three running backs, and Collins will be ready to play,” Amstutz said. “This week is really special because this is a West Division MAC team, one we have to play and beat if we want to be in contention for a championship. This is a very important game for us. Anytime you face a team on the road you face a team at their best, so we have to go into their stadium and play on their level.”
That focus is what has the Rockets ignoring its home debut against another Big 12 giant in Kansas to instead concentrate on Saturday’s clash in Southwest Michigan.
“We can beat Kansas, but if we lose this game then we are not working toward our goal,” Amstutz said.