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Beckman and Toledo get ready for crucial matchup with WMU

By Nate Pentecost
On November 6, 2011

Last Tuesday the Rockets surrendered the wheel of the Mid-American Conference West Division to Northern Illinois by falling short in a 63-60 shootout with the Huskies at the Glass Bowl.

"It was a tough loss," said UT head coach Tim Beckman. "Our kids understand that we let an opportunity we were building for slip by."

With Toledo (5-4, 4-1 MAC) leading 60-56, Rockets fans watched in agony as UT head coach Tim Beckman held on to his timeouts while NIU (6-3, 4-1) burned almost four minutes off the clock before scoring the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds to go.

Beckman defended his costly mismanagement of the clock to the media after the game and did so again last Thursday at his weekly news conference.

"It's pretty hard when you're standing there with 18-to-21 year olds, preaching to them about making sure that they're doing their responsibilities right on and off the football field and doing those types of things, and then say to them, 'Hey, why don't you guys give up a touchdown, so we can get the ball earlier?' That's not going to happen when I'm a football coach," said Beckman. "Our job as a defense was to stop them, and we didn't get that taken care of."

Regardless of where blame should be placed, to make the MAC Championship Game, Toledo will now need to win their final three games and hope that Northern Illinois loses one of its last three.

"They understand that it's still up to us," Beckman said. "We've got three opportunities. These next three games are what's lying in front of what the Rockets need to do to be successful."

The Rockets will have another opportunity to pick up a nationally televised win tomorrow night at the Glass Bowl. But a visit from the Western Michigan Broncos (5-4, 3-2) is surely not the bounce-back scenario UT had in mind.

"These players are resilient," Beckman said. They have bounced back from a lot of things this year. From losses that weren't losses to injuries to all sorts of things. We're looking forward to getting back at it."

The Rockets offensive firepower was on display against the Huskies, led by a career performance from quarterback Austin Dantin. The junior signal-caller threw for 322 yards and five touchdowns on 20 of 33 passing. Dantin also rushed for 65 yards and a score.

Junior wideout Eric Page caught all five of Dantin's passing touchdowns to tie Marshall's Randy Moss for the MAC single-game record. Page finished with 9 catches for 150 yards.

But the Toledo defense struggled to find footing the whole contest and was plagued by penalties and mistakes.

NIU senior quarterback Chandler Harnish torched the Rockets for 265 yards and three touchdowns on 17 of 26 passing while leading the Huskies on the ground with 133 yards on 16 carries.

The special teams unit has been a weak link for UT all season long but it was particularly atrocious last week, giving up back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns to open the game, among other miscues.

"All and all as a football team we didn't win," Beckman said. "It wasn't just the defense, it wasn't just the offense, it wasn't just the special teams. It was the team that didn't win."

The Rockets will need to regroup quickly to best a Broncos squad which yields the 11th best passing attack (321.3 yard per game) in the country.

Led by a 400 yard passing performance from quarterback Alex Carder, WMU responded to a two-game skid by beating a solid Ball State team 45-35 at home last Saturday.

Carder is second in the MAC with 269.2 passing yards per game.

"[Carder] is very good, there's no question about it," Beckman said. "He's proven it against every opponent he's faced. Even in the first half against Michigan he did outstanding. He's somebody we've got to be aware of at all times."

Wideout Jordan White claimed MAC West Offensive Player of the Week honors for the fourth time this season with 9 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. White was just one of three Broncos who racked up over 100 yards receiving.

White leads all MAC receivers in both catches per game (10.6) and receiving yards per game (134.6).

Running back Even Drake added 85 yards rushing on 16 carries for two scores against Ball State.

However, defense has been a problem for WMU all season long. At 468.8 yards the Broncos have given up the second most yards per game in the MAC, and last weekend was no improvement. Despite forcing the Cardinals into three turnovers, the Western Michigan defense allowed 555 yards.

The Broncos managed to pull out the win against Ball State in spite of their defense, but they will not have the luxury of playing at home on Tuesday. Instead, Western Michigan will be on the road where they are just 1-4 this season.

The Rockets defense may have faltered against a stellar Northern Illinois attack but they remain far superior to Western Michigan's unit. Ironically, along with home field advantage, the UT defense may be the difference in this game.12

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