Rockets travel to Wyoming, hope to avenge close ’10 loss
After their overtime bid came up just short last Saturday against Arizona in Tucson, UT hits the road again this week as they try to avenge another one of their 2010 losses.
The Rockets will travel to Laramie, Wyo. to face off with the Cowboys (0-1) Saturday. Wyoming bested UT 20-15 at the Glass Bowl Oct. 2, 2010.
Toledo hopes to correct a few minor details from last week that cost them a 1-0 start.
“As we look back, there are some areas we must improve on from an offensive standpoint,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell. “We nearly doubled the time of possession, but at times we didn’t gain what we needed to gain out of that time of possession. At the end of the day, that’s scoring points.”
The Rockets held the ball for over 46 minutes, but 2011’s eighth-best scoring offense was only able to put 17 points on the board in a 24-17 loss and managed just a field goal after halftime. They were 0-for-8 on second half third down attempts after going 10-of-15 in the first half.
“The only disappointment I have is making sure we do a great job of coaching and performing the details that it takes to win close football games,” Campbell said. “That’s just details and little things, I think we’ll get better at that.”
Another area where Toledo must get better is tackling. After watching the film from Saturday night, Campbell believes they let Arizona gain an extra 180-200 yards as a result of missed tackles from UT defenders.
Never was that more of an issue than early in the third quarter with Toledo nursing a 14-10 lead when Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey exploded up the middle for a 73-yard touchdown. Carey broke three tackles on his way to the end zone and the Rockets never regained the lead.
“I think it’s one of the things we stress more than anything,” Campbell said. “I think why you get better between the first and second week of the season is because of the speed and the emotion of playing a real game. One of the things that happens is execution of details and tackling is something that you can get better at between week one and two.”
Another area where the Rockets need to improve this week is at cornerback. Campbell praised his secondary for “bending, but not breaking” and thought the game plan was exceptional, but Wildcat receivers Austin Hill and Dan Buckner still combined for 17 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown.
Toledo starts a pair of new corners in freshman Chris Dukes and sophomore Cheatham Norrils. Throughout the game, it appeared that both of them were giving a lot of space to Arizona receivers at the line of scrimmage to prevent the big play.
They avoided “the big one,” but those large cushions left several routes open underneath that went for 15-20 yards each.
Based on Wyoming’s first game against Texas, the UT corners could have their hands full once again.
Junior Robert Herron went wild on a very stout Longhorn defense, hauling in five passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including an 82-yarder.
“They had a receiver who had a great day, extremely skilled,” Campbell said. “He made some huge runs on a very good Texas defense.”
The Cowboys led the No. 15 team in the country after the first quarter. Campbell said he admires their style and respects the way they play.
He also praised the performance of their quarterback, Brett Smith. The sophomore threw for 276 yards on 16-of-28 passing and added two touchdowns. Despite two interceptions, he still posted a great QB rating of 149.2.
Smith started every game as a freshman last year, throwing for 2,622 yards while completing 61 percent of his passes. He tossed 20 touchdowns against 11 picks and led Wyoming to an 8-5 record and a trip to the New Mexico Bowl.
“On offense, it looks like they’ve got a quarterback who we’ve got the utmost respect for,” Campbell said. “He’s a kid that’s mobile, but yet can make plays a lot like what we saw out of [Scott] last week.”
The Rockets will counter with their usual dual-QB attack, but this week, Terrance Owens will likely see the field first instead of Austin Dantin.
Since Dantin started last Saturday, Campbell stated that Owens will lead the offense for at least the first series “if all’s even” through practice this week.
Owens twisted his ankle in the third quarter when he was sacked and fumbled the football. Campbell said he was a little gimpy during Monday’s practice, but should be fine by Saturday.
A pair of coaches with strong ties to the Rockets will be roaming the sidelines for the Cowboys.
Head coach Dave Christensen was a Toledo assistant under former coach Gary Pinkel from 1991-2000. Current offensive line coach and run game coordinator Jim Harding made a school record 46 consecutive starts as offensive tackle from 1997-2000.
“I know they’re extremely well-coached,” Campbell said. “Christianson does a great job with his staff and we’ll have to be prepared to play a good football game.”
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