Rockets gear up for statement game against No. 21 Cincinnati
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 03:10
Matt Campbell and the Rockets have adopted the “one game at a time” mantra more than maybe any other team in college football.
Large schedules are posted on the walls throughout Larimer Athletic Complex with a piece of paper covering up the remaining portion. After each game, the next contest on the list gets revealed.
Next up for Toledo is the undefeated and 21st-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats (5-0, 1-0 Big East), who will enter the Glass Bowl Saturday night.
“It’s a huge football game,” Campbell said. “We have tremendous respect for the University of Cincinnati and their program and we know it’s a great opportunity for our program and for the University of Toledo. They come in here with good experience, very good talent especially at the skill positions and it certainly will be a good test for our football team and where we’re at right now.”
UT has a strong track record of knocking off BCS conference teams and is no stranger to the big stage.
Since 2000, Toledo has beaten the likes of No. 9 Pittsburgh, Penn State, Minnesota, Kansas, Michigan and Purdue. They opened the season at Arizona and gave the Wildcats all they could handle before falling 24-17 in overtime.
Cincinnati became a part of that list in 2001 when the Rockets bested them 23-16 in the Motor City Bowl.
The Bearcats enter this matchup ranked No. 21 in the initial BCS standings and also claim sports in the top 25 AP and Coaches Polls.
“It makes it neat for our kids,” Campbell said. “One of the things that we’ve always sold here is we’ve got a great non-conference schedule. I give a lot of credit to our athletic director to be able to get some of these teams to come in and have a chance to play some great teams.”
Despite UC’s perfect record, their schedule hasn’t been the most difficult.
They have taken advantage of two buy weeks and will be making their first true road trip of the season this weekend. The Bearcats knocked off Virginia Tech 27-24 at FedEx Field – a neutral site – in what was surely their toughest test so far in 2012.
However, the perennial Atlantic Coast Conference contenders are in the midst of a down year and dropped three of their first six games.
Two of UC’s five games have come against FCS opponents.
Cincinnati may be a bit untested, but they have a bevy of players on both sides of the ball capable of making plays.
The Bearcats defense has surrendered just 72 points in five games and has done an exceptionally good job of stopping the run. They’re allowing opponents to rush for 101.6 yards a game and just 3.4 yards per carry, 16th best in the country.
UC’s stout front seven is led by a pair of excellent defensive ends in Walter Stewart and John Williams.
They have combined for 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
“They’ve got two defensive ends that have played a ton of football there,” Campbell said. “They put pressure on the quarterback and they do a really good job of being able to put pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz guys.
“We’ve got to do a great job of being aware of where those defensive ends are and make sure we give them a multitude of different looks and try to limit the amount of times they can create negative plays.”
Junior quarterback Munchie Legaux is in his first full season as the starter and has shown improvement from his sophomore season.
Last year, he completed 55-of-116 passes (47 percent) and was picked off four times. He has raised his completion percentage to 56 this season and has thrown 11 touchdowns against three interceptions.
The duel-threat signal-caller has run for 198 yards and two more scores.
“Coach [Butch Jones] has done a great job no matter where he’s been, whether it be Central Michigan or Cincinnati of developing his quarterback and making sure he’s a good playmaker,” Campbell said. “He’s got some playmakers around him. Two really good running backs that make plays in space, he’s got a great receiver that’s a pro prospect out there, so we know it’s a team like any other top 25 team.”
Senior running back George Winn has been hard to stop this year, piling up 521 yards and four touchdowns on 6.4 yards per carry.
The UT run defense will have their work cut out for them after seeing EMU’s Bronson Hill run all over them last week for 284 yards and four touchdowns.
This marks the 18th time the Rockets have squared off with a ranked opponent and the sixth time at the Glass Bowl. UT is 6-11 in those games with their last victory coming against No. 9 Pittsburgh 35-31 in 2003.
UT will look to recapture some of that magic Saturday night in what is sure to be a great college football atmosphere.
“I sure hope our campus and this great city comes out and supports these Rockets,” Campbell said. “We’re a 6-1 football team right now and I’m really proud of what our kids have accomplished up until this point.
“It’s fun because you get a chance to compare yourself and your program. I think it’s going to be a great game and my biggest expectation is to have a great crowd and really show what this great city’s all about.”