Toledo’s defense delivering with turnoversWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While UT senior cornerback Desmond Marrow has watched the Toledo offense make a name for itself with the likes of junior wide receiver Eric Page, senior running back Adonis Thomas, junior quarterback Austin Dantin and sophomore quarterback Terrance Owens, he and his defensive teammates are also starting to make some noise.
“Last year we finished almost close to No. 1 in the nation [in turnovers gained],” Marrow said. “Now, we just pride ourselves on turnovers and try to get at least three every practice, and we just take that mentality into every game.”
After a season in which they tied for fifth in the country with 34 turnovers gained, the Rockets’ defense forced five turnovers which led to five touchdowns as Toledo rolled over New Hampshire 58-22 at the Glass Bowl on Sept. 1 for its’ first season-opening win since 2005.
“We’ve been preaching that since we got here,” Toledo head coach Tim Beckman said. “We know that this is an easy game. You get the football, you give it to your offense [and] your offense has an opportunity to score.”
The first of UT’s five turnovers came with 3:47 remaining in the first quarter when senior cornerback Taikwon Paige’s hit jarred the ball loose and senior safety Diauntae Morrow grabbed the interception. The Rockets scored three plays later on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Dantin to Page, and on the third play of the Wildcats’ next drive, Nico Steriti fumbled and senior safety Charles Rancifer recovered at the New Hampshire 45-yard line.
Owens found sophomore wide receiver Bernard Reedy wide open for a 29-yard touchdown strike on the next play to give UT a 17-0 first quarter lead. Senior defensive lineman Malcolm Riley’s fumble recovery with 11:43 left in the second quarter led to a 46-yard touchdown run from Thomas seven players later, extending Toledo’s lead to 24-0.
“Our objective for this game was just to come out and play all four quarters, and get the ball, and get turnovers and just play with a relentless effort and just get the ball rolling for the season,” Riley said. “Our defense, we pride ourselves on taking the ball away and giving great effort and getting to the ball, and I feel that that’s what we strived to do tonight.”
The turnover trend continued in the second half when junior linebacker Robert Bell sacked Kevin Decker and recovered the fumble at the Rockets’ 37-yard line at the 9:07 mark of the third quarter. One play later, Dantin hooked up with Reedy for a 63-yard touchdown pass to make it 44-8 Toledo. Senior cornerback Anthony Washington got UT’s final turnover in the fourth quarter on his interception with 10:40 left in the game, setting up another Rockets’ touchdown.
“We practice those things, and again, it’s not me,” Beckman said. “It’s the four other assistants that I have on defense that do an outstanding job of preparing their players to make plays. Shoot, I’ve just got the title of head coach. They’re the defensive guys, so the credit needs to go to that defensive staff, along with the seniors—the Des Marrow’s and the Malcolm Riley’s and the guys that are out there Monday through Thursday trying to prepare to be the best that they can possibly be.”
“Our defense, we just want to prove that we can be a great defense and just improve from last year,” Riley said. “We did pretty well last year, but we just want to improve and just get that championship defense that we think we can be. And we have a lot of room to get better to develop that goal, but every day we just strive to be that championship defense.”
For Marrow—who was Toledo’s second-leading tackler against the Wildcats with seven on the night—it felt good not only to begin his final year at UT with a convincing win, but also for the defense to have a solid outing before heading to Columbus next weekend for a meeting with the Buckeyes.
“The veterans on the defense like myself, and T.J. [Fatinikun] and Malcolm, we just try to take it upon ourselves to make the defense just as known as the offense,” Marrow said.
Kickoff for Toledo’s matchup with No. 18 Ohio State is slated for noon on Sept. 10 at Ohio Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.