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Published: Monday, 11/23/2009

Rockets fired up to face rival BG

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

While his players sang the fight song after the victory over Eastern Michigan on Friday night, Tim Beckman glanced at the countdown in the University of Toledo locker room that showed the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the Rockets faced their archrival.

Immediately after the hooting and hollering ceased, Beckman pointed to the timepiece that reads, "Beat the team down south," and didn't need to say anything else to his team.

The preparation for this week's game against Bowling Green State University was underway.

"We're already focused on BG," senior running back DaJuane Collins said in his postgame comments following the 47-21 win on senior night over the Eagles.

Only Collins and his fellow seniors know what it's like to beat the Falcons, however.

BGSU owns a two-game winning streak against the Rockets and has won four of the last five meetings at Doyt Perry Stadium, site of Friday's 30th annual battle for the Peace Pipe.

"It adds to the motivation," Collins said of UT's recent lackluster track record against the Falcons, "but at the same we're a new team, and that's in the past. If we just come out here and handle what we have to do and play our brand of football, we'll be OK."

For former defensive back Tom Duncan, a UT hall of famer and color analyst for football broadcasts on the Rocket Radio Network, the Battle of I-75 still holds plenty of significance.

Duncan said it's been tough for him and his former teammates to watch the Rockets struggle against BG.

"It's always frustrating when your former team is going through that," said Duncan, who played for UT during the first two seasons of its 35-0 winning streak which spanned 1969-1971.

"It's frustrating anytime they lose, especially to Bowling Green, but there's nothing much you can do about it. When you played, you could do something about it. When you're sitting on the sidelines and watching your team, you can only hope they do the best they can."

As a player, Duncan never lost to BGSU. During his sophomore year, UT tied 0-0 with the Falcons before edging out a nail-biting 27-26 victory in 1969 and then rolling to a 20-0 win in 1970.

"It was very much a grudge match back then," Duncan said. "It just meant a lot to us to beat them. Even our last year, we wanted to shut them out and we did. It was like a win wasn't good enough. We had to shut them out. It was one of those things where it was just a pride factor and knowing that they weren't going to beat us."

Duncan added that the environment within the UT program is always different during BG week.

"Guys always seem to step up a little bit more and do a little bit more that week," Duncan said. "Everybody always has a little bit more of an edge to them, being that the schools are so close and you want bragging rights.

"Even in the game, you'd get up from the pile and kind of push them aside. You wouldn't get any penalties, but it was just one of those things where you had more of an attitude. We took it personal because we really wanted to beat them."

Even to this day, that mission of beating BGSU still holds true for the Rockets.

"It's the most important game right now," UT senior safety Lester Richmond said. "Being that it's our last game and being that it's our rivalry game, we want to win this one."

Adding to the motivation for UT is the opportunity for its seniors to post a .500 record for the first time in their careers.

But really, not many extra incentives are needed to get the Rockets riled up for this game.

"It's BG week, what can you say?" UT senior quarterback Aaron Opelt said. "The countdown is already going. We're ready for it. If I had my way, we'd skip this film [from Eastern Michigan] and go right to [preparing for] BG."

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com.



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