Unity, defense trademarks of UT defenseWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: This is the fifth installment of a weekly series in which staff writer Mike Bauman will follow sixth-year Toledo senior cornerback Desmond Marrow for the 2011 season.
Throughout the years, Toledo senior cornerback Desmond Marrow has shared the gridiron with many top-notch collegiate football players now in the NFL, including the likes of Titus Young, Aqib Talib, Louis Delmas and Ryan Mathews.
Despite all of the above achieving a dream Marrow hopes to fulfill once his days at UT are over, none takes the cake as one of the best he’s ever seen in football. That distinction goes to Boise State senior quarterback and Heisman candidate Kellen Moore, whose No. 4-ranked Broncos visit the Glass Bowl on Sept. 16.
“We’ve got to eliminate big plays and big passes because he’s so good at his reads,” Marrow said about Moore. “If his first read’s not there he has his second read, then he has his checkdown. Like, he’s probably one of the best players I’ve played against ever in football. We just have to eliminate big plays and try to hold No. 11—Kellen Moore—the best we can, just try to hold him and keep him within wraps and eliminate the big plays on the field.”
Eliminating big plays from Moore has proved quite the task for his opponents, including the Rockets. Moore threw three touchdowns in the Broncos’ 57-14 rout over Toledo last year in Boise, completing 16-of-22 passing attempts for 267 yards. In his career, Moore has thrown 102 touchdowns to just 20 interceptions for 11,128 passing yards with a 39-2 record as a starter.
“We learned that they pretty much play mistake-free football,” senior defensive tackle Johnathan Lamb said about last year’s matchup with Boise State. “So we’ve got to come out and play mistake-free football, also, so we can have a chance because Ohio State, if we were mistake-free against them, we would have really had a good win. We’ve just got to come out and play like we know we can [and] eliminate the penalties.”
UT (1-1) committed 14 penalties for 102 yards in a 27-22 loss at No. 17 Ohio State (2-0) on Sept. 10, a tough pill to swallow for Marrow, Lamb and the Rockets, who would have been the first Ohio team since 1921 to beat the Buckeyes.
“I was watching SportsCenter like, five, six, seven times after the game, like what almost could’ve happened, but as a team we’re just getting ready to play Boise right now,” Lamb said. “I’m not even thinking about the Ohio State game anymore.”
While Toledo did not leave Columbus with a victory, it made noise with its effort, especially the defense. Despite playing without junior linebacker Dan Molls—the nation’s 10th-leading tackler last season—and senior safety Mark Singer, who is out for the year with a torn labrum in his shoulder, the Rockets’ defense still gave the offense an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter.
That final UT drive was set up by senior cornerback Taikwon Paige, whose hit on Rod Smith jarred the ball loose and Lamb recovered at the Toledo 28-yard line. It was later revealed that Paige played most of the game with pain in his hip and groin after knocking down a Joe Bauserman pass early in the contest, a testament to the toughness and unity of the Rockets’ defense.
“The thing about the defense [is] we’re two-deep at every position, so everybody’s going to play,” Paige said. “Regardless if I’m out—or Desmond, or Danny Molls—we’ve got somebody that’s going to be ready to step in and play.”
Even with Molls (lower leg) and junior linebacker Robert Bell (rib) unavailable against the Broncos (1-0), UT is still confident in its abilities despite last year’s defeat in Boise.
“I don’t think we were intimidated,” Marrow said about last year’s loss in Boise. “I just think now as a team we have a little more tightness on the defense. We know everyone’s ability to make plays, whether we have guys hurt [or not]. We’ve got Molls out, and then of course they said Robert Bell [is] out, but the best thing about it is coach Beckman recruits, and he recruits well. So we’ve got players ready to step up and play against Boise State.”
Like Boise State, the Rockets want to eventually be a BCS-buster program. And—like the Broncos—they expect to win every game, a confidence that was evident in Ohio Stadium and one that will surely be there against Moore and Co., win or lose.
“We’ve got a little chip on our shoulder—unfinished business, as you said—but just the overall attitude of the team is that we believe we can win every game,” Marrow said. “So, I mean, it’s nothing different. It’s just another team, the next opponent, whether it’s Boise State or any other team.”