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Toledo and Akron set for second matchup this season

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Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside threw five touchdown passes in the first meeting between UT and Akron. The teams will meet again in the MAC championship game on Saturday.

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As the University of Toledo football team prepares to face Akron in the Mid-American Conference championship game Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit, the Rockets will take a close look at the game film from the 48-21 win Oct. 21 against the Zips at the Glass Bowl.

But a lot has changed since.

Akron (7-5, 6-2 MAC) is 3-1 since the game and has broken in a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Kato Nelson, who has replaced senior Thomas Woodson, who was suspended before a Nov. 7 loss to Miami and has not played since.

RELATED: Toledo beats Akron in first meeting

Since the Akron win, the Rockets (10-2, 7-1) stumbled at Ohio, but won four other conference games.

“That does seem like ancient history,” UT coach Jason Candle said of the first game. “That game seems like it was forever ago. Our conference, since we’ve gone to the midweek format, provides change and makes you pay attention to the details each and every day. You don’t really get a chance to look back much on what just happened because the schedule each week forces you to press on, which is a good thing.

“We’re four or five weeks down the road from playing that game. Teams, especially when you are talking about 18- to 22-year-old people, they change weekly, if not daily. ... This is a whole different situation and a totally different scenario.”

Woodson played in the first game, and Akron coach Terry Bowden said he will be available to play in this one.

After the game against the RedHawks, Nelson torched Ohio for 322 passing yards and four touchdowns, as well as 45 yards rushing. Nelson provides a different look than Woodson, and Candle said he has injected some life into the Zips’ offense in adding a run threat from his position.

“[Nelson] is a different guy in the sense that they can have some designed quarterback runs for him,” Candle said. “He also has the ability to extend plays with his feet. He can hurt you running the ball when the pocket breaks down, and then at times he does a really good job of keeping his eyes downfield and completing some passes to receivers once his first option isn’t there.”

In the first matchup, UT senior quarterback Logan Woodside had five touchdown passes, including three in the first quarter, which helped Toledo race out to a 21-0 lead.

“You go back and watch the film, but that game is going to have no bearing on this one,” Woodside said. “So you look back and see what you did well and what you didn’t do well. And you try to find new ways that we can attack those guys.”

Bowden said the quick scores by the Rockets altered how he and his team had to approach the game.

“We were playing from behind the whole game and you are playing tight,” Bowden said. “It just got away from us so early, and you can’t catch up against a team like Toledo. So what you are going to talk to the kids about is we don’t need this game to be over in the first quarter. Just get to the second half, and you’ve won all your games that have been close in the second half. They beat us so badly, so quickly, it just put us out of our game.

“As far as what we take from last game, what we convince our players of is, ‘Let’s don’t fall behind 21 points in the first quarter.’ Then we can see if we can play with these guys a little better.”

Both teams did what they needed to do to win their division and end a long MAC title game drought. For Toledo, it’s the first conference title game appearance since 2004, and for Akron, it is the first since 2005.

“We came out and we kind of felt like we weren’t playing up to our ability,” Akron receiver A.J. Coney said of the first meeting. “Obviously they are a great team, and they came out and they did what they were supposed to. They were firing on all cylinders. We have to come out and play better for sure. They are going to be hungry. We are going to be hungry. They haven’t won the MAC title in a while, and we haven’t either. Both teams are going to come out and fight. Hopefully, we come out better because we know they are going to come out strong.”

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

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