UT gets first MAC road test at WMUWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
So far this season, Toledo’s road to 3-1 has not been an easy one, especially on defense.
In week one, the Rockets fell 24-17 to Arizona in overtime. After four games this season, the Wildcats rank No. 12 in the country in total offense at 536.5 yards per game, while their quarterback in Matt Scott is 10th nationally in passing.
Week two saw UT grind out a 34-31 road victory at Wyoming, who sports the second-best pass offense in the Mountain West Conference (276.5 YPG) and has a quarterback in Brett Smith who ranks No. 12 in the NCAA in passing efficiency.
And after a big win in week three over arch-rival BGSU in which Toledo held the Falcons to 15 points in its home and Mid-American Conference opener, the Rockets needed all four quarters to put away FCS-member Coastal Carolina by a score of 38-28 last weekend.
The Chanticleers, who are averaging 403 offensive yards per game this season and put up 432 on UT, also have a talented quarterback in Aramis Hillary. Hillary, who ranks ninth in total offense in the FCS (302.5 YPG), threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns against Toledo (3-1, 1-0 MAC).
“I think as I look at that game, I think that football game there were just some areas where it was details,” UT head coach Matt Campbell said on Toledo’s closely contested win over Coastal Carolina. “I said that after the game, and certainly as I looked at it, I still thought our kids played really hard. But I think it was just some details of assignment, a little bit of alignment, maybe some things that we hadn’t seen show up in the first three games.
“Whether it was a lack of focus or just a lack of coaching the details, we must do a better job of that in this football game.”
That talented starting quarterback trend was supposed to continue on the road this Saturday when the Rockets face MAC West Division rival Western Michigan (2-2, 0-0 MAC) and quarterback Alex Carder. Both teams combined for a MAC single-game record 129 points in Toledo’s 66-63 shootout win over the Broncos last year, a game in which Carder threw for a WMU-record 548 yards and seven touchdowns.
However, Carder is out after injuring his throwing hand in a 30-24 win over Connecticut last week and will not play against UT on Saturday. According to MLive, Carder had surgery on his injured throwing hand the morning of Sept. 27. Broncos’ junior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen, who went 3 for 6 for 16 yards after Carder got hurt against the Huskies last week, will start against Toledo on Saturday.
“The backup’s a junior that has played,” Campbell said of Tubbergen, who has thrown for 524 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions with a completion percentage of 76.6 in his career at WMU. “He’s got statistics from last year and this year, and he came in the football game and really managed the game extremely well in the second half. As I look at their play calling, it didn’t change much throughout the game.”
Nationally, UT ranks No. 116 out of 120 teams in pass defense, yielding 325.25 yards per contest in that category. To be fair, the Rockets have a new defense and new defensive coordinator/linebackers coach this season in Tom “Tuke” Matukewicz, as well as two first-year starters in their secondary.
Sophomore and St. John’s Jesuit grad Cheatham Norrils and redshirt freshman Chris Dukes replaced seniors Desmond Marrow and Taikwon Paige at both cornerback positions. In 2011, Marrow was a First-Team All-MAC selection, while Paige was second on the team with two interceptions.
“We’ve got to come out every day in practice, just improve on techniques, and just like coach [Campbell] said earlier, the details,” UT senior linebacker Dan Molls said. Molls leads the MAC in tackles (49) and ranks No. 5 in the NCAA in total tackles with 12.25 per game. “The details have kind of killed us a little bit the last few weeks, and we’ve just got to crack down on that.”
One guy that the Rockets will have to be aware of on Saturday even without Carder in the game is WMU freshman wide receiver Jaime Wilson. Wilson ranks fourth nationally with 9.25 receptions per game and also leads the MAC with 107.5 receiving yards per contest.
“I think we’ll rotate,” Campbell said on Toledo’s plan to slow down Wilson. “And we’ll make sure that from not only our [defensive backs], but from our linebackers and our safeties, that we understand where that young man is at all times during the game.”
Kickoff for the Rockets’ matchup with the Broncos is set for 7 p.m. Saturday. The game will stream live on ESPN3.
Fun facts: Heading into Saturday’s matchup, UT is 17-6 against WMU since 1989 and has won its last two games against the Broncos. The Rockets are 5-3 in their last eight trips to Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo. Toledo is also 38-28 vs. Western Michigan all-time.