Q&A with Let’s Go Rockets
I took the opportunity of this weekend’s football game at Toledo to interrogate Toledo blog Let’s Go Rockets. I also answered some questions for them, which you can read over there.
1. How do Rocket fans feel about the non-conference results, particularly, of course, the Ohio State and Syracuse games?
Playing a tough non-conference schedule gives a program a chance to face opponents and schemes that are outside their comfort zone. The exposure and experience gained from these games is invaluable. We learned a tremendous amount about our team after seeing the o$u, Boise State and Syracuse games and how our team reacted to those athletes, schemes, and outcomes. Hanging close with o$u revealed that UT would be stronger defensively than what we expected coming out of the off-season. As we rolled into the Temple game, the worry was that injuries and deflation from the last three games (especially the debacle at the end of the Syracuse game) would not let us be competitive and bring our A-game… but that wasn’t the case. The win at Temple showed the cohesion and chemistry that our team has been able to develop, it showcased our resolve and tenacity and demonstrated that a team learns from a strong non-conference schedule and the experience is invaluable if the coaching staff has the foresight to utilize those games as teaching/learning tools for continued progress.
2. So, Eric Page does it all, eh? Pass, catch, carry, return…
Page is the complete package. Any time he is on the field, the opposing defense has to keep tabs on him and this allows other athletes to play into favorable matchups — that being said, even when teams plan for Page, he makes them pay. It’s impossible to quanitize the impact of one player on a team, but it’s obvious that Eric Page is, often times, responsible for the explosiveness you see on the field both on offense and special teams.
3. How is the dual-quarterback thing working? We didn’t really get to see that last year, since Austin Dantin was injured in the first quarter, and I’m sure it’s evolved since this time last year. What differences will we see when Dantin is on the field versus Owens? How do they alternate, by quarter, by series, by Tim Beckman’s whim, or what?
We’ve had success with the dual-QB scheme so far. Though the first few games of the season, Dantin and Owens would rotate every few series (and we saw Dwight Macon thrown into the mix as well the first game) but against Temple, Dantin was on the field the entire game (aside from a few direct snaps and a couple taken by Macon). We’re hearing that we will continue to play two quarterbacks for the remainder the of the season, barring any major injuries. T.O. is capable of scrambling more comfortably than Dantin, so the likelihood for that to occur when he’s in the game seems to unsettled opposing defenses. We’ve also seen T.O. take more shots down the field (and connect) than Dantin, so that seems to play into his favor. Dantin has completed around 65% of his passes and T.O. around 57%. Yards per attempt on these two is nearly identical though, at 7.3 and 7.2 for Dantin and Owens, respectively.
4. What should we expect to see from the Toledo defense? Which defensive players/positions are particularly strong, and which are weak?
Despite having several key players injured (Molls, Singer, etc.) the UT defense has had some great performances. Robert Bell leads the defense with 39 tackles (24 solo) with Diauntae Morrow, Desmond Marrow and Jermaine Robinson right behind him. T.J. Fatinikun leads the team in tackles for loss with 7.5 and also leads the team in sacks. Our defensive line has been effective at getting into the backfield to disrupt plays, hurry the QBs, and stop the ball-carrier behind the line of scrimmage. We’ve snagged 5 interceptions this season, all from different Rockets, showing that a wide variety of players and positions are capable of capitalizing on opponent mistakes and that the emphasis cannot just be placed on one area to avoid that risk.
Turnovers are where Toledo is most dangerous and is tops in the MAC. We’ve managed to take the ball away 12 times while only surrendering 5. The easiest way to win games is to simply give yourself another chance and our defense and special teams has continued to do just that.
While our defensive secondary gave us some concern coming out of the off-season, those players have stepped up to help keep us competitive in games. We have still shown vulnerability to the pass and rank near the bottom of the MAC in pass defense (this is slightly skewed when you consider our first 4 opponents) and this is still a point of concern.
5. Which other players should we watch?
Besides Eric Page — check out Morgan Williams and David Fluellen who will anchor the run game (with Adonis Thomas out with a broken arm). Keep an eye on Bernard Reedy who is one of our quickest receivers. Watch for Fatinikun, Bell, and Robinson to have big games.
6. What tips/suggestions do you have for EMU fans heading down to Toledo for the game?
Should be great weather for the game so anyone coming to the Glass Bowl should really enjoy themselves. The Glass Bowl can get pretty loud when things get rockin’ with a full house, but there should be plenty of seating for this one, for anyone who decides to catch the game on the spur of the moment. Be warned that we fire our cannon at the beginning of every game, at the end of each quarter and after each Toledo score…. even if you know it’s coming, it can be quite a surprise. Come with the expectation to see some good football and you won’t be disappointed.