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Published: Saturday, 9/15/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

UT not down on home opener against BG

Rockets' staff expects huge turnout for kickoff of Mid-American play

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The University of Toledo marketing team is taking a enthusiastic approach to what appears to be a gloomy situation.

Why UT will win

Toledo has lost the turnover battle just three times dating to the beginning of the 2011 season. It ranked third nationally a year ago in turnover margin and currently sits sixth at plus-5. BG, after finishing 2011 ranked No. 116, is minus-1 thus far.

The defensive line should be able to exploit a dicey BG offensive front, one that Falcons coach Dave Clawson ripped last week as being "dysfunctional." After chasing around a dual-threat quarterback in its first two games, Toledo will have an easier time getting its hands on the run-limited Matt Schilz.

Toledo has out rushed BG 545 to 158 in the past two meetings and it is no coincidence the Rockets won those games. Running back David Fluellen, who wracked up 93 yards in last year's affair, notched a career-high 109 yards last week at Wyoming.

Quarterback Terrance Owens is coming off a virtuoso performance, throwing for 300 yards and four touchdown passes. Owens, who has been prolific since the end of last season, is a better player now than when BG saw him in October.

Toledo will be emboldened by what figures to be a capacity crowd at the Glass Bowl. The home team in this series is 23-9 since 1980.

-- Ryan Autullo

Why BG will win

The Falcons have used special teams to score points with kickoff return (last year), punt return (in 2010) and two blocked punts that set up scores in BG's most-recent win in 2009.

Bowling Green has shown the ability to lock down the Rockets' top weapons; last year the Falcons limited Eric Page to six catches for 37 yards as well as just 13 yards on two punt returns and 40 yards on two kickoff returns.

Early this season the Falcon defense has shown it is better at stopping the run than last season, when Toledo gashed BG for 268 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

In his first two games this season quarterback Matt Schilz has shown the ability to manage a game, keeping the Falcons in the contest at Florida and directing BG to win over Idaho, while limiting his turnovers.

Falcons had one of their better running days of season last year vs. Rockets, and run game is stronger this year with emergence of John Pettigrew and Jamal Martin as well as return of Jordan Hopgood to augment Anthon Samuel.

-- John Wagner

With today's football game against rival Bowling Green at 7 p.m. also serving as Toledo's home opener, the two biggest draws on a typical Glass Bowl schedule have been funneled into one date. Thus, the possibility exists the university will suffer a financial blow, the reflection of fewer tickets being sold over a five-game home slate.

That won't necessarily be true, insists athletic marketing director Heather Lutz, who believes today's ideal weather -- sunny and zero percent chance of rain -- combined with an initiative to lure fans to some non-glamorous games could offset the scheduling albatross.

"We've actually thought about it from a positive standpoint," Lutz said. "Playing this game in nice weather, we're both 1-1, let's embrace it. This is a good thing."

This is the first season the Rockets have kicked off a home schedule against Bowling Green. Toledo had no choice, as the Mid-American Conference handles scheduling for league games.

Roughly 1,000 tickets were unsold as of Friday morning, meaning the paid attendance of at least 25,000 will be bigger than those that braved through chilly conditions for the past three UT-BG meetings at the Glass Bowl. The attendance will also exceed those from recent home openers against New Hampshire (20,106 in 2011) and Colorado (20,082 in 2009) and should be in the neighborhood of the Arizona game that drew 25,907 in 2010.

Lutz views the Oct. 20 game against Cincinnati as a hot ticket, and the Oct. 6 homecoming match up against Central Michigan should likewise draw well. Scant turnouts are to be expected for week night games against Ball State on Nov. 6 and Akron on Nov. 20.

The wildcard is next Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina. Aware that an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision is not enticing to the common fan, Lutz has made several pleas to boost attendance. On the guest list are marching bands from local high schools along with the Boys Scouts and Girls Scouts. Kroger cardholders can purchase tickets at a discounted rate. The Toledo mascot Rocky will give away 100 tickets on Wednesday, and anyone standing in line at the ticket window by 2 p.m. can buy up to four tickets at half price -- $12.

Church youth groups are invited to the Central Michigan game and "local heroes" -- a list that includes war veterans, police officers, and firefighters -- will be honored against Ball State.

"It's not that having the Bowling Green game early has allowed us to do these things, because we would have done them anyway, but we can focus on these games more by having the Bowling Green game early," Lutz said.

SEASON TICKETS: A count of season ticket sales has not been conducted, but athletic department spokesperson Paul Helgren said he expects the figure to be in the vicinity of last year's record of 11,792.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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