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Quarterback battle wages on this week at Syracuse

By Nate Pentecost
On September 22, 2011

Following back-to-back losses to then No. 18 Ohio State and No. 4 Boise State, the Rockets will close out a grueling non-conference schedule this Saturday when they head to the Carrier Dome to clash with the Syracuse Orange.

Last week Toledo found itself severely overmatched as senior quarterback Kellen Moore led Boise State to a 40-15 trampling of the Rockets at the Glass Bowl. By night's end the Heisman hopeful torched Toledo for 455 yards and five scores.

"They made the plays," said UT head coach Tim Beckman. "Their quarterback made the plays, and our offense and defense did not."

The Broncos (2-0) defense also shutdown Toledo's two-headed quarterback attack. Duel-threat Terrance Owens was held to 201 yards on just 17-of-31 passing and only 18 yards rushing.

Austin Dantin was rendered largely ineffective in limited playing time, and in addition to a coughing up the ball in the red zone, he completed just 3-of-8 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.

"Austin was a little bit off throwing the football," Beckman said. "And we knew it was going to be hard to run the football on their front four. We just decided as a coaching staff that T.O. might give us a little bit more throwing the football."

On the ground, the Rockets finished with just 98 yards on 3.3 yards per attempt. Leading rusher Adonis Thomas (227 yards on 6.1 yards per carry) was held to 65 yards in the contest, though he did rumble his way to pay dirt in garbage time for his third touchdown of the season.

The secondary obviously faltered against Boise State, and they will need a quick turnaround in order to contain Syracuse senior quarterback Ryan Nassib. Nassib has completed over 70 percent of his throws on the season, posting seven touchdowns against one interception.

The Orange were soundly defeated 38-17 by USC (3-0) last weekend but Nassib managed to record impressive numbers against a solid Trojans defense, completing 25-of-37 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown.

"He has an extremely strong arm," Beckman said. "And he's a very competitive guy."

That touchdown went to junior wide out Alec Lemon who ended the contest with 72 yards on seven receptions. With a team-best 24 catches on the year Lemon has emerged as the Orange's go-to receiver, but the Rockets will also need to account for deep threat Van Chew who is averaging 16 yards a catch and leads the club with three touchdowns.

The potent Syracuse passing attack will challenge a banged up Rockets secondary from start to finish. For a third consecutive game Toledo will be without junior linebacker Dan Molls, the nation's tenth-leading tackler from last season, but the defensive unit should still have a manageable task in stopping the Orange on the ground.

Leading carrier Antwon Bailey has racked up 204 yards on 49 carries (4.1 yards per carry) but Syracuse has rushed for under 80 yards per game on the season, registering just three yards per carry in their first three games. On the other side of the ball, there is no doubt Syracuse struggled.

In week one the Orange were punished through the air by Wake Forest's three touchdowns on nearly 300 yards passing.

Last week against the Trojans, Syracuse was again ill-equipped defensively, finding itself on the business end of quarterback Matt Barkley's 324 yard, five touchdown performance.

To add insult to injury, the Orange also surrendered 175 rushing yards to USC.

"We just got to go out there and do what Toledo does," Owens said. "We need to make plays to be successful."

With both teams relying on the passing game, points should come in bunches this Saturday at the Carrier Dome.

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