UT hosts CMU for homecomingWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks in large part due to a career night from junior running back David Fluellen and three interceptions from the Rockets’ defense, UT rolled to a 37-17 road victory over WMU last Saturday for its fourth-straight win this season.
“I think it’s really hard to win football games—especially in this conference—on the road,” UT head coach Matt Campbell said. “And my hats go off to our leadership of our football team and our coaches. I thought we played two really good quarters in that football game.”
Toledo (4-1, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) reeled off 17 points and racked up 258 yards of total offense in the first quarter alone to help propel the Rockets past the Broncos (2-3, 0-1 MAC) for the third-straight season.
Fluellen, who entered the game averaging 71.8 rushing yards per contest, exploded for career-highs of 213 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries against WMU.
“Our coaches put together a good game plan [that] we had,” Fluellen said. “[Junior center] Zac Kerin, watching film with him earlier in the week, he showed me a couple things we could take advantage of and it’s been successful so far.”
And while Western Michigan was without senior quarterback Alex Carder, who was out with an injured throwing hand, UT’s secondary saw three players each record their first interceptions of the year. Senior free safety Mark Singer, junior linebacker Vladimir Emilien and sophomore cornerback Jordan Haden all registered picks that translated into 17 points for Toledo.
Emilien made his first career start for the Rockets against the Broncos, while Haden returned his interception 63 yards for a touchdown. Both players’ interceptions were the first of their careers for a defense that is yielding an average of 306.6 passing yards per game in 2012.
“I think it’s crucial because now we know as a secondary we can be the ones that make the big plays,” Singer said. “We know our d-line’s going to get after them, and we can make the plays we have to make to change the momentum of a game because [WMU] got that safety, and then Jordan picked that ball off and it just swung back around in our favor.
“It’s just great to know we have guys that can come on the field and just make those big plays in the secondary.”
UT will need more big plays from its secondary on Saturday when the Rockets host Central Michigan (2-2, 0-1 MAC) at 3 p.m. for their 81st Homecoming Game as the Chippewas have a prolific passer in senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff.
A Sherwood, Ohio native who played at Fairview in high school, Radcliff is the second quarterback in Central Michigan history to have consecutive seasons with 3,000 yards passing. Currently No. 7 in the MAC with an average of 239.8 passing yards per game this season, Radcliff has thrown for 555 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a completion percentage of 62.3 in his career against Toledo.
“I’ve had a chance to watch him and see his career blossom, and he’s playing like a fourth-year senior quarterback should play in a system,” Campbell said of Radcliff. “I love watching him because he’s a great competitor. I think offensively, right now this Central Michigan team comes in and may be the best offense we’ve played to date.”
In the Chippewas’ 32-31 upset at Iowa on Sept. 22, Radcliff completed 26-of-35 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions as CMU put up 394 yards of total offense.
“He has a good arm,” Singer said of Radcliff. “He has some talented receivers, and he has a nice running back and a good o-line. So I mean, him running the show back there, it’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll be ready for him.”
Defensively, Toledo will also have to be mindful of CMU’s rushing attack. The Chippewas are averaging 159.2 yards per game on the ground, while running back Zurlon Tipton ranks fifth in the MAC with 95 rushing yards per game.
The Rockets, who are giving up an average of 161 yards per game on the ground this year, lost senior defensive end and Perrysburg grad T.J. Fatinikun for the remainder of the season after he tore his Achilles tendon against the Broncos.
Meanwhile, junior defensive end Christian Smith suffered a knee injury at WMU and could potentially be unavailable against CMU as the UT medical staff determines the severity of his injury. Toledo’s defensive line has also been without senior defensive tackle Danny Farr, who injured his knee against Wyoming in week two.
“I know T.J. and all them wish that they could step out there with masks and strap up,” Haden said of homecoming. “So I’m really going to go out there and just play for them and just show them that I’m down.”
Fun facts: Toledo is 19-18-3 all-time vs. Central Michigan. UT won 10-straight over CMU from 1995-2004, while the Chippewas won five-straight over the Rockets from 2005-09. UT is off to its best start since 2005.