Thomas, Rockets want to be BCS bustersWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year, the Rockets’ otherwise sweet season ended on a very sour note when Florida International’s Jack Griffin kicked the game-winning 34-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Golden Panthers to a 34-32 victory over Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field this past December. Combine that with an embarrassing late-season 65-30 drubbing at Northern Illinois—a defeat which cost the Rockets a chance to play in the Mid-American Conference Championship—and you have a Toledo roster that was fueled with plenty of motivation during winter workouts this offseason. With spring ball now in session, the Rockets couldn’t be happier to get back out on the field and work towards a more successful campaign in 2011.
“Winter workouts have been tremendous,” Toledo head coach Tim Beckman said. “I think being our third year and being involved with this program and being involved with our players, they understand exactly what’s asked of each one of them throughout the winter workouts. From the competitions, from the rigors of being on time, from doing things right on and off the football field, you see some continuity. You see some things that the guys understand exactly what’s going to be happening. There’s nothing new.
“I think also after the loss in the bowl game, there was also some feelings of what we need to get done as a team to be better and to finish.”
In 2010, Toledo finished 8-5 overall with a 7-1 MAC record, its best overall season since 2005 and best conference mark since 2004. Unlike last year when the Rockets finished the season with 12 seniors on their roster, the 2011 squad will feature a plethora of experience. Toledo’s roster currently features 24 seniors with 18-of-22 starting position players returning. Both the offense and defense return nine starters apiece from last year.
One of those seniors and starters is running back Adonis Thomas. Thomas had a breakout season in 2010, rushing for 1,098 yards and leading the MAC with 6.3 yards per carry as he earned Second-Team All-MAC honors. After a year in which he propelled himself into the starting role in the Rockets’ backfield and is now one of the leaders on the team, Thomas is hungry to help usher Toledo not only into the elite company of the conference, but also the country.
“As a team in general, Coach Beck instilled in us that we should be BCS busters,” Thomas said. “Just look at the body of work that Coach Beck is putting in, taking a 3-9 team to 5-7 where we lost two games that we should’ve won. We should’ve been in a bowl game his first year, so then that next year he didn’t turn it down, he turned it up. He challenged us to get better. So we went from 5-7 and won eight games and went 8-5.
“Every year he just turned it up, so now we feel as though this year with as much talent as we have coming back, we’re as good as the Boise State’s, the Ohio State’s. He instilled that swagger in us that we should be BCS busting. To go to a bowl game is good, but we didn’t come here to win bowl games. We came here to win championships.”
The Rockets will get the opportunity to prove that they can hang with Boise State and Ohio State, too, because they’ll be playing them both. Toledo travels to Columbus to face the Buckeyes in week two of its’ 2011 season on Sept. 10, then hosts the Broncos a week later at the Glass Bowl on Sept. 17. It’s true that the Rockets are no strangers to playing big opponents, having defeated a team from a BCS automatic qualifying conference in each of their last five seasons. However, it’s also true that Boise State and Ohio State have combined to outscore Toledo by a 95-14 margin the past two years.
Toledo fell by a score of 57-14 to the Broncos in 2010 and 38-0 to the Buckeyes in 2009.
“I’m the type of player that once something happens, I really don’t think back and dwell on it because my grandmother always said, ‘You can’t live off last month’s groceries,’” Thomas said. “Once something happens, it’s the next step because now that we’ve had so much success as an offense, the things that worked last time are not going to work this time, so therefore the task is going to be harder.”