The University of Toledo football team will have its hands full on Saturday against Eastern Michigan, the top overall defense in the Mid-American Conference so far this season.
For the second straight game, Toledo’s high-powered offense will face a stingy defense looking to slow down the Rockets’ attack.
Against Miami (Fla.) last game, Toledo managed to score 30 points, but found rushing yards tough to come by against one of the top defenses in the country.
The Rockets were limited to 85 yards on 35 carries, good for just a 2.4-yards-per-carry average. Despite struggling to get big chunks in the running game, UT coach Jason Candle said the team will continue to be balanced on offense.
“We are who we are and we are going to be balanced,” Candle said. “We are going to run the football effectively and try to run the football effectively and try to be really good in situational football. And we are going to take our shots downfield. That’s just who we are and how we like to play offensive football. That’s how I like to call the game. I don’t know if we play anybody on our schedule that I will look at the plan leading up to the game and I will try to deviate from that. I think that’s a blueprint that has been successful here for numerous football games in a few years now.”
Eastern Michigan brings the third-best run defense in the MAC to the Glass Bowl, allowing just 129.5 yards per game. Like against Miami, Toledo will continue to try to execute in the run game.
“We just have to be very disciplined with those type of teams,” UT running back Terry Swanson said. “Those guys are going to be in the right spots, so it’s all about execution. If we handle that, we should be able to take care of the ball and play our game.”
Swanson has been relied upon heavily this season with 77 carries in the team’s first four games. He is second in the conference, rushing for 88.8 yards per game.
While Swanson has shared the rushing load with sophomore Art Thompkins and early in the season with freshman Shakif Seymour, he welcomed the week off that the Rockets had before opening up the MAC schedule with Eastern Michigan.
“It gave us a chance to reset a little bit mentally and a chance to get our bodies right,” Swanson said.
Swanson believes that the running back group for Toledo continues to get better as the season progresses.
“We’re improving every day at that position,” Swanson said. “That is something that we all have to display with our talents. We need to get better every day and that I believe that is what this group is doing, is progressing on a daily basis.”
FILLING IN: When UT senior defensive end Tuzar Skipper went down with a torn ACL, it opened up more playing time for two seniors in Zach Quinn and Maryland transfer Malik Jones.
Quinn and Jones were already part of the defensive line rotation, but with Skipper’s injury both players should see their role expand.
“Before he got hurt, we had a solid rotation going on,” Jones said. “Now that he is out, I do feel like I have to step up a little bit more. There is nothing that he could do that I can’t do. I feel like I can fill in and do the some of the same things that he could do."
Quinn said it hurt seeing a teammate go down, but he has to take advantage of the current situation.
“Losing Skipper, it kind of sucked for our football team,” Quinn said. “He is a great player and helped us out a lot on special teams and on defense. Unfortunately with him going down, it did make my role bigger, but I’m ready for the challenge.”
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