University of Toledo football coach Jason Candle is aware of his program’s Mid-American Conference title drought. In his ninth season as part of the program, Candle understands the disappointment that has come with opportunities wasted and second chances squandered in the quest for the Rockets’ first MAC title since 2004.
Now with another golden opportunity to win the MAC West Division and go to the Dec. 2 conference championship game, Candle isn’t much concerned with reliving past failures.
The Rockets (9-2, 6-1 MAC) need just a win Friday against Western Michigan (6-5, 4-3 MAC) at the Glass Bowl to clinch the West and earn a spot in the conference’s championship game against Akron at Ford Field in Detroit.
Western Michigan's Jamauri Bogan runs the ball as Toledo defensive backs DeJuan Rogers (23) and Connery Swift (3) attempt to tackle him during last year's game in Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group Enlarge
“I can’t change the past and I don’t really care about it to be honest with you,” Candle said. “I don’t really care about the future much past what happens this Friday. Our focus and our goals and everything we’ve set out to do is right here this week and this game on Friday. I probably said something like this before the Elon game. It’s what is right in front of you.”
Candle and his staff have preached a laser-like focus on winning the day at hand and outpreparing and outworking other programs. Each week in college football presents new challenges, and Candle wants every player in his program to have a sense of individual accountability and consistency in showing up every day ready to work.
“Teams are falling off all over the country right now,” Candle said. “It’s not because their talent level was at one point in the beginning of the year and now it’s way different. It’s about consistency and doing the same things every day. It’s about doing this routine and process that everybody tries to go through. It’s about doing it better than everybody else. I’m not interested in guys that want to give locker room speeches when we win. I’m interested in guys that want to go to work on Tuesday. I think this team understands that, and the minute we don’t understand that we will get beat. That’s just the way it is.”
This season that approach has worked and the results have followed, giving Toledo a chance to accomplish all of its goals.
Now, a Western Michigan team that has handed Toledo tough defeats the past two seasons stands in the way. Two years ago, the Broncos handed Toledo a 35-30 loss at the Glass Bowl in a situation similar to this season. Last season, WMU routed Toledo on its way to an undefeated regular season and the MAC title.
“We’ve been put in this moment the past two years and we know how big this moment is,” UT senior cornerback Trevon Mathis said. “We feel like we’ve been robbed the past two years, dating back to 2015. We know how big this is. That’s a great football team over there and we know this is their Super Bowl.”
Western Michigan comes to the Glass Bowl this season with a team that returns several key players from last year’s conference championship team and a roster that knows how to win.
“It’s exciting, just the opportunity that we have ahead to play a really good football team,” UT senior quarterback Logan Woodside said. “It’s a team that has really beat our butts the past few years. We’re excited about it and looking forward to it. It’s a new situation. Obviously a lot of players were on that team [from two years ago], but it’s a new year. They have a lot of new guys and so do we.”
Candle has talked about how hard it is in today’s society to do what you say you are going to do. This year’s Toledo team has said from the start its ultimate goal is to win the MAC championship. On Friday, the Rockets have a chance to walk the walk and get one step closer to that elusive conference title.
“If we [think] this is time for some speech or some ‘Win one for the Gipper’ talk or to go get the leadership book off your desk and look up the best quotes and start hanging them all over the wall, we’re already beaten,” Candle said. “This has been a 12-month process. It’s been a long time coming. This is understanding what’s at stake. This is what you said you wanted to do. Go do it. Don’t talk about it. Just go do it.”
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