Marrow driven to win by losingWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third installment of a weekly series in which Staff Writer Mike Bauman will follow sixth-year Toledo senior cornerback Desmond Marrow for the 2011 season.
From the time he committed to the Rockets more than five years ago, Toledo senior cornerback Desmond Marrow expected to win. Winning played a vital role in why he came to UT, and it is a big reason why he chose to come back in 2011.
After four consecutive losing seasons, the Rockets went 8-5 with a 7-1 mark in Mid-American Conference play last year and made it to a bowl game for the first time since 2005. While expectations are high for Toledo this season after years of inconsistency, Marrow is not worried about the Rockets getting too high on themselves because there are still two goals he and his teammates have yet to accomplish: a MAC Championship and bowl game victory.
“Just being here for so long, we’ve had just losing season after losing season after losing season, and then to finally get some winning around here and just get a taste of it — our main goals were to make it to a MAC Championship and win a bowl game, and we didn’t accomplish either one of those,” Marrow said. “So from the outside you may think, ‘Oh, the Rockets had a great season,’ but we didn’t accomplish anything, and we just try to stay hungry and to stay motivated for the season.”
Toledo trumped last year’s preseason prediction of a fourth place finish in the MAC West Division thanks in large part to a defense that performed better than most outside of the Rockets’ locker room expected. UT tied for fifth in the country with 34 takeaways in 2010 as players at each level of the defense had career seasons.
Marrow tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Senior defensive end Malcolm Riley tied for a squad-best 5.5 sacks. Junior defensive end T.J. Fatinikun led the Rockets with 13 tackles for loss, while junior linebacker Dan Molls finished second in the MAC and tied for 10th in the nation with 143 tackles to go with his three interceptions.
Both Fatinikun and Molls earned Third-Team All-MAC honors last year and will join Marrow and Riley as the leaders of a defensive unit that returns seven starters from 2010.
“That’s the good part,” Marrow said. “From the line, linebackers, secondary — we’re well-rounded at every position, so we’ve just got to go out there and prove that our defense is good.”
One player who can attest to the Toledo defense’s prowess is senior running back Adonis Thomas, who faces Marrow and company every day in practice.
“We feel as though we have the best team in our conference,” said Thomas, who received Second-Team All-MAC honors last year and is the conference’s leading returning rusher. “We believe that we have the best players in this conference. Anytime you want to be the best, you have to go against the best, and we really get after each other.
“We really push each other because everyone here wants to succeed and wants to play at the next level, so we all get after each other so that we all hopefully are fortunate enough to get on that next level,” he said.
To get to that elite level, the Rockets have to win at home, which has been a struggle in recent years. In the five seasons Marrow has spent at Toledo, UT has lost 13 times in the Glass Bowl. From 2001-05, the Rockets only lost twice at home.
“Being the oldest guy on the team and being a leader, I just try to tell the young guys that the tradition and the things that have been here, we’ve just got to bring it back so that [when] people come into the Glass Bowl, they know it’s a serious place to play,” Marrow said.
Heading into a season filled with high expectations, high-profile matchups and high internal standards, Marrow and his defensive teammates are prepared to hold up their end of the bargain.
“I just try to keep the guys upbeat and just try to be a leader, along with the other vets on the defense —with T.J., Malcolm, John Lamb and Johnie Roberts from the d-line and also Danny Molls,” Marrow said. “The good thing about playing here is we’ve got guys that can step up and play as well or better as the people that we lose.”