BGSU presents early test for rival UTWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a reason that late week in November is dubbed “Rivalry Week.”
From in-state clashes like Alabama vs. Auburn and Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, to the bitter border battle between Ohio State and Michigan, “Rivalry Week” has traditionally been a time in college football when known foes are fighting not only for bragging rights, but also for conference positioning and better bowl berths.
For Toledo and Bowling Green, however, “Rivalry Week” in the 2012 season is this week. In what will be the earliest the Rockets and Falcons have ever squared off in the “Battle of I-75,” UT will host BGSU at the Glass Bowl on Saturday in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.
“I mean, this is what college football’s all about,” UT head coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s about going out on the West Coast for the last two weeks, and everybody said, ‘Well, that’s going to be tough to do,’ and our kids played really hard.
“And then it’s about having the opportunity to play the team down south. You get a chance to play them early in the football season.”
When BGSU (1-1) enters the Glass Bowl on Saturday night for the 77th meeting of the rivalry, it’ll be doing so with a 39-33-4 lead over Toledo in the series. Since 2001, UT holds a slight 6-5 edge over Bowling Green, including back-to-back victories in 2010 and 2011.
“It’s a great rivalry game,” said Campbell, who began his coaching career as a Bowling Green graduate assistant in 2003. “We have great respect for their football team. We know it’s a very confident and good football team coming in here, but I think that’s the Mid-American Conference and that’s our conference.
“If you don’t come ready to play each and every week then you’re going to get beat, and it doesn’t matter who you play in this conference.”
Both teams are coming off their first victories of the 2012 campaign—the Rockets (1-1) in a 34-31 win at Wyoming and the Falcons in a 21-13 victory over Idaho in their home opener.
“I love the fact that it’s the first MAC game,” Toledo senior defensive end and Perrysburg grad T.J. Fatinikun said. “I love the fact that it’s early in the year. I’m so excited and just so ready to go. I think if you ask every single one of the guys, they’ll say the same thing.”
One of those guys is fellow senior in strong safety Jermaine Robinson. Both Fatinikun and Robinson suffered injuries last year against Eastern Michigan and were unable to participate in Toledo’s 28-21 victory at Bowling Green the following week.
“It feels great to be back,” said Robinson, who through two games ranks third on the Rockets with 13 tackles and is tied for first in the MAC with two interceptions. “Just to be healthy, 100 percent, then go out with your seniors who you came in with [is great].”
And like its first two contests against Arizona and Wyoming, UT will again face a dynamic pass attack and talented quarterback when Bowling Green comes to town. Led by redshirt junior quarterback Matt Schilz, the Falcons rank No. 5 in the MAC in pass offense (254.5 YPG).
“Schilz, he’s a bigger dude,” Robison said. “He stands in the pocket, throws a great in-cut, throws the ball good against the middle of the field. If you give him time, he’ll pick any defense apart. So we just have to halter disguises, just keep the ball in front of us and just make him execute every play.”
Through two games, the Rockets are giving up an average of 364.5 passing yards per contest. However, Toledo is tied for No. 7 in the country with six turnovers gained, three of which led to 17 points in its win over Wyoming. In 2011, UT ranked No. 3 in the NCAA in turnovers gained.
“The way the game is now, everybody’s coming out there [with a] five-receiver set,” Robinson said. “The last two weeks, we’ve just been seeing empty [sets] the whole game, so with those type of offenses they’re going to put up yards.
“It’s just keeping them out of the end zone. We could give up 800 yards and they could score one touchdown. That’s all that matters.”
Kickoff for the latest installment of the “Battle of I-75” between Toledo and Bowling Green is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Glass Bowl. The game will stream live on ESPN3.