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Rockets tabbed to win MAC West at Media Day

By Jay Skebba
On July 24, 2012

DETROIT, Mich. -- With college football Media Day kicking off in many conferences, one thing is certain -- football season is right around the corner.

The Rockets are eager to return to the field for what looks to be another promising year for Toledo football.

For the second consecutive season, the media has picked UT to win the Mid-American Conference West. The polls were released before today’s events at Ford Field.

“It makes me feel good about the direction of our football program,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell. “I think we’ve worked really hard to put ourselves in position to be at the top of our conference. In November, we want to be back here at Ford Field with an opportunity to achieve a goal for our football team.”

Toledo came close to reaching that goal last year, going 7-1 in MAC play with their only loss coming in a 63-60 shootout at home to eventual champion Northern Illinois.

There appears to be a developing rivalry between these two in the West. Their annual meeting carried significant weight in recent years.

“I think it’s more than a little rivalry for us,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren with a grin on his face. “We look forward to playing them.”

The tough loss eventually sent NIU to the MAC title game instead of UT by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker. Avenging last year’s loss to the Huskies would go a long way toward earning a trip to Detroit in 2012.

Much of the talk surrounding Toledo at Media Day was unsurprisingly about the two-quarterback system that has become a staple of the offense for the last few years. Senior Austin Dantin admitted it was tough at first, but now it is just part of the offense.

“It’s become so routine we do it every single day in practice and we’re used to it and we’ve grown accustomed to it,” Dantin said. “I think because of that, we’ve learned to just accept it and we know it’s best for our team. Our team’s winning, so we’re not going to have any issues with it.”

Dantin started the first 10 games in 2011, while junior Terrance Owens got the nod for their final three contests, including the Military Bowl.

Dantin completed 122-of-188 passes for 1,404 yards and 15 touchdowns. Owens threw for 2,022 yards on 166-of-230 passing. His 72.2 completion percentage was a MAC record.

“These guys are in a position now where they are great leaders in our football program,” Campbell said. “They’ve led our program to where it is right now from a leadership standpoint, to an unselfish standpoint and from a competitive standpoint. We’ve got two great players at quarterback and we are fortunate to have that.

“It just so happens that we have two guys that we feel are very talented, that have proven themselves, have won huge football games in our program and they deserve the right to play. It’s unheard of today to have two guys at one position, especially a marquee position like quarterback, where those two have an opportunity to share the spotlight.”

Campbell is also in that spotlight.

At just 32 years of age, he’s the youngest head coach in D-I football. Serving as the offensive coordinator last year, he was promoted to head coach after Tim Beckman departed to take the same position at Illinois prior to the bowl game.

The experience from coaching that one game along with all of spring ball will hopefully pay dividends as he transitions into his first full season as head coach.

“I think you’re always learning, you’re always growing,” Campbell said. “But to have that under my belt, I think it helps me prepare for what it’s going to be like through a 12-game season. That’s been worth its weight in gold because I think it’s so important to learn what your players can do, what motivates our players to be successful and how we can continue their success.”

The Rockets begin fall practice Friday, Aug. 3 and begin the regular season at Arizona Saturday, Sept. 1.

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