The defending MAC champion, the Toledo Rockets, took the field in their season opener Saturday,
Sept. 1 against the VMI Keydets. The Rockets unveiled a new quarterback under center, after the school’s leader in passing yards and touchdowns, Logan Woodside, departed for the NFL draft in the spring.
Third-year Mitchell Guadagni could not have asked for a better first start, as the Rockets would steamroll the Keydets 66-3.
For Guadagni, his play at quarterback was a major driving force in the Rocket victory. The starters did not see the field in the second half, due to a 42-3 lead at halftime. Guadagni would go 11-16 for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
Fourth-year wideout Cody Thompson returned to action for the first time since last fall, after sustaining a season-ending knee injury. His impact was immediately felt as he blocked a Keydet punt and found himself in the end zone almost instantaneously for the first score of the contest for the Rockets.
His night did not stop there, as he caught three passes for 68 yards and another touchdown late in the second. This score came when quarterback Guadagni showed off his athleticism rolling out of the pocket and extending the play and making a tough throw on the run.
The three touchdowns Guadagni tossed went to three different receivers: Jon’Vea Johnson, Cody Thompson and Diontae Johnson. The Rockets' running game also gave glimpses of the depth and talent at the position.
Second-year Shakif Seymour, third-year Art Thompkins and first-year Bryant Koback all got significant carries on the ground for the Rockets.
The tough Toledo defense showed up all night forcing three turnovers and nabbing four sacks, but perhaps the biggest achievement was how consistent they were at stopping the run. This forced the Keydets into clear and obvious passing situations and tough third downs.
No matter who was slotted in for the defense, they were true and consistent all night long in stopping VMI. The biggest indicator of this comes in the stat of total yards gained by both teams, the Keydets mustered only 222 yards for the night, whereas the Rockets exploded for 603.
The Rockets had 390 passing yards and 213 rushing yards for a very balanced attack all night long.
Tried and true were the Rockets all night, and it resulted in a 1-0 start to the 2018 campaign. Head coach Jason Candle was more than pleased after the game stating, “The emotion, the attitude, the effort was very consistent throughout, so I was very proud of that.”
A true test for the Rockets will be in two weeks, when the eighth ranked Miami Hurricanes bring its talented team to Toledo for a rematch of last year’s contest in which the Hurricanes won 52-30. The game will be at noon in the Glass Bowl.