Bauman’s Breakdown: Blue collar work ethic paying dividends for RocketsWritten by Mike Bauman | | email@example.com
Success is something that hardly ever comes easily. Rather, it is the result you get when knowledge, work ethic, determination and preparation come together to achieve the desired goal. In other words, success rarely happens by accident. It’s also why the Rockets know that their record heading into Saturday’s homecoming matchup with Wyoming is no fluke.
“They have shown me that we are a different team from last year with the previous games that we’ve played,” Toledo Head Coach Tim Beckman said. “Each week, we’ve gotten better at doing the little things. Other than the penalties this last week, we’ve gotten better in all of the phases from learning from the past. They’re still giving me a lot of gray hairs, though, because those teams are coming back and making it a four quarter football game.
“We’ve got to continue to learn how to win, but we have been successful doing it.”
After last week’s 31-20 upset victory at Purdue (2-2, 0-0 Big Ten), Toledo improved to 3-1 on the season with a 2-0 record in the Mid-American Conference. The Rockets’ previous two wins came against MAC opponents Western Michigan (1-2, 0-1 MAC) and Ohio (1-3, 0-1 MAC). While Toledo never really lost control of the game in its 20-13 victory over the Bobcats in week two, it allowed the Broncos to battle back from a 31-7 late third quarter deficit in week three and the Boilermakers to rally from being down 24-3 early in the third quarter last Saturday.
However, Toledo made big plays in crucial situations to come away victorious. After sophomore wide receiver Eric Page ran back a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Western Michigan game, he had a 50-yard kick return in the fourth quarter last week that put the Rockets in Purdue territory and set up their final score, which extended Toledo’s lead to 11. In both instances, Page’s returns were on the subsequent kickoffs following the opposing teams’ scoring drives.
“We have a lot of trust in each other to go out there and perform,” Page said. “The offense has to trust the defense to get the ball back, and the defense has to trust us to put points on the board.”
Senior linebacker Archie Donald also stepped up when his team needed him to against the Boilermakers last Saturday, ripping the ball away from Purdue quarterback Rob Henry’s intended receiver and returning his interception 51 yards to the Boilermakers’ 23-yard line with 2:57 left to play. Donald became the third Rockets’ player in consecutive weeks to receive MAC West Division Defensive Player of the Week honors after his 16-tackle, one interception performance.
“I said, ‘It’s on our shoulders now. If we stop them from scoring, we win the game,’” Donald said. “That’s when the interception happened. I knew I had to step up and make something happen, and the defensive line created great pressure and I picked it off.”
And while Beckman said that veteran players like Donald rallying the team and making plays has led to success, much of the winning is also due to the time spent away from the field in film study.
“I’ve seen more of our players involved with film study on their own to understand that this is a game—you’ve got to learn the game to be successful,” Beckman said. “I think those are the things that maybe a lot of people don’t see us doing other than playing the game and practicing, but that these players have bought into doing, and it creates success for them on the football field.”
One of those players is senior cornerback Desmond Marrow. The fifth-year senior doesn’t have any classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, so he uses that extra time to get better by showing up to the team’s facility at about 6 a.m. to work out, and then spends time watching film to prepare for Toledo’s next opponent.
“It’s definitely from the extra work,” Marrow said. “Film study makes the game so much more easier. Anything you do, if you do something and it works, you keep doing it because it keeps working. We just keep sticking to the plan, keep doing what the coaches tell us to do, keep watching film and we keep winning.”
Page agrees that the film study has been the difference, but also that the winning has provided motivation for players to put in the extra time.
“That’s definitely been the difference,” Page said. “This year, everybody’s got their stuff together, knows when they have to go in and study, and just everybody’s in there working.”
The Rockets will do battle with the Cowboys (1-3, 0-1 Mountain West Conference) at 7 p.m. this Saturday in the Glass Bowl.