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Toledo defense showing encouraging signs

Rockets turned in dominant defensive performance against EMU

University of Toledo football coach Jason Candle said when he looked beyond the statistics, he saw some encouraging signs for his defense in the Tulsa and Miami (Fla.) games. While the stat sheets may have suggested otherwise, he saw things to build on for a young defensive team.

“Miami and Tulsa, there were some things encouraging there to build some confidence on defense as well,” Candle said. “I know statistically we all get caught up on that stat sheet and what that looks like. But you are playing with a bunch of young guys, and they are just going to get progressively better each week. I think this should build some confidence, and small wins will hopefully equal big wins here down the road.”

The progress of the young defense was on display during a dominant performance against Eastern Michigan at the Glass Bowl last week. The Rockets limited the Eagles to 326 yards of total offense and a 1-of-11 mark on third-down conversions in the 20-15 win.

“It should help build confidence,” Candle said, adding. “there are a lot of things to build confidence from that.”

UT junior linebacker Richard Olekanma said the defense will continue to develop each week and will have to make adjustments.

“We’re 1-0 in the MAC, but it’s still a long season,” Olekanma said. “Other teams are going to see that and try to game-plan against us, and try to move us around and get us out of position. We really have to be focused at every practice, every day, getting it right.”

Against Eastern Michigan, sophomore safety Kahlil Robinson intercepted two passes in the fourth quarter, ensuring the win for Toledo.

“We know that’s what we kind of expect on defense, is to cause some turnovers to help us out, to get to where we want to be at the end of the year,” Robinson said. “Just seeing what we can do each game, we know that we can do that in every game. Just carrying that over and having that same mentality and that same mindset, we just have to play out there, go hard, and have fun while doing it.”

Statistically, Toledo has the eighth-best scoring defense in the MAC at 31 points per game. The Rockets are seventh in total defense, allowing 404.4 yards per game.

However, a lot of those statistics were swayed by the Tulsa and Miami (Fla.) games in which Toledo gave up 51 and 52 points, respectively, and surrendered a total of 1,135 yards combined in the two games. After the Eastern Michigan game, the Rockets still believe they can have one of the conference’s better defenses.

“I have a lot of faith and trust in our defense,” Robinson said. “I believe we are one of, if not the best defense in the MAC. We know what we are capable of, and we just have to go out and execute every game to the best of our abilities. That’s kind of our expectation, playing at a high level each game. We know what we can do, and that’s our goal.”

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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