Rockets Get Defensive Against FalconsWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When the Rockets entered the Glass Bowl on Saturday night, they did so ranked No. 118 out of 120 FBS teams in terms of total defense. By the end of the first half against its arch-rival Falcons, however, Toledo held a 17-3 lead largely due to that defense.
Bowling Green didn’t cross the 50-yard line until the second quarter on its sixth possession of the half, averaging just 5.4 yards per play in the first 30 minutes. Giving up an average of 575 yards per game in its first two contests, UT limited BGSU to 351 total yards of offense for an average of 5.4 yards per play on the night, helping propel the Rockets to a 27-15 victory in the 77th installment of the “Battle of I-75.”
“I think our defense honestly all year long has played really, really good football,” Rockets’ head coach Matt Campbell said. “They’ve given us a chance to be in every football game, and I think we’ve got some really good players on defense. I think we played some really good offenses early in the season, and I think it prepared us tonight to come out and play very fast and play strong.”
And while Toledo’s yards allowed were the third-worst among FBS schools heading into Saturday’s matchup, the Rockets (2-1, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) continued to deliver with turnovers. UT sophomore cornerback and St. John’s Jesuit grad Cheatham Norrils registered his first career interception at the 10:16 mark of the second quarter when he picked off Falcons’ quarterback Matt Schilz at the BGSU 41-yard line.
“I think Cheatham Norrils is a young man that we’ve been so excited about here,” Campbell said. “Last year, I thought he did an exceptional job in the bowl game against Air Force. He came in and played the entire second half and really did a great job and kind of went unnoticed.
“And I think he really took this spring and this offseason about how good does he want to be because I think Cheatham’s got the ability to be exceptional.”
The Rockets scored five plays later on a one-yard rush from junior running back David Fluellen to take a 17-0 lead with 8:43 to go in the half. Norrils’ interception marked Toledo’s seventh turnover gained this season and fourth-consecutive turnover to translate directly into UT points.
“So far, basically my performance has basically been on the coaches,” said Norrils, who also finished tied for third on the team with seven tackles against the Falcons. “They’ve been putting me in positions to make plays, and that’s basically all [it is].”
Bowling Green (1-2, 0-1 MAC) entered the Glass Bowl on Saturday with the second-worst scoring offense in the conference, averaging 17.5 points per game. Toledo forced the Falcons to go three-and-out on their first three possessions, limiting BGSU to 60 yards on 14 plays in the first quarter. Schilz, who entered the contest averaging 243.5 passing yards per game for Bowling Green, had 216 yards through the air with no touchdowns and an interception.
“Really, all it was for us is just being fundamentally sound in all phases,” said senior linebacker Dan Molls, who had a game-high 13 tackles. “The biggest thing, really, that we emphasized all week in practice was just tackling. Tackling was huge for us.
“We came out tonight and everyone—for the most part—we tackled really well, and I’m pretty sure that that was a huge key to our success tonight.”
Toledo will be in action again on Sept. 22 when it faces Coastal Carolina (2-1) in the Glass Bowl at 7 p.m.