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Rested and ready, UT turns page to Miami showdown

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University of Toledo RB Shakif Seymour (21) scores a touchdown against VMI. The Rockets now shift their focus to No. 21 Miami (Fla.)

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After blowing out Virginia Military Institute in the Sept. 1 season opener at the Glass Bowl, the University of Toledo football team did not play this past week and used that time to regroup, refocus, relax, and catch its breath before the start of an 11-week stretch of games starting Saturday when the Rockets host No. 21 Miami (Fla.).

“It was probably a little bit more of rest and relaxation than in the past when it comes to bye weeks,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “We had a couple good days of practice. They were light practices. They weren’t very long, but we are going to go play 11 straight weeks here. The bye week or days off were to kind of sit around and catch our breath and recap. We are not going to have many of those left.”

When taking a look at Toledo’s nonconference schedule, the first thing that stood out most likely was the Miami game, but also the fact there was a week off between the VMI game and this contest.

“It was nice to kind of relax a little bit,” UT junior defensive tackle Nate Childress said. “You would probably want it later in the season, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We were dealt our hand and we are going to play the best we can with it.”

While Toledo is a relatively young team that could benefit from intense practice reps, Candle said he and the staff didn’t want to push too hard with the long stretch looming.

“It’s a fine line,” Candle said. “It always is with that bye week. Whether that is in the beginning or the end of the year, you always want to have that chance to catch your breath and get guys mended up. I think are guys are ready to go now.”

Toledo opened the season impressively by routing VMI 66-3. The offense clicked under the command of junior quarterback Mitch Guadagni, the defense was dominant with three turnovers, and the Rockets received good special teams play including a punt block touchdown by senior Cody Thompson.

Miami, meanwhile, opened the season ranked eighth in the country before struggling in a 33-17 loss to LSU in its opener. The Hurricanes bounced back with a 77-0 thrashing of Savannah State on Saturday.

With the off week and the Miami and LSU game played on a Sunday, Candle had a chance to watch both of the Hurricanes’ games.

“Last week’s game [Savannah State], just about everything stood out,” Candle said. “They scored 77 points and I think they gave up under 100 yards of total offense. They have an excellent defensive coordinator [Manny Diaz] who uses his personnel to the best of their ability, which is the sign of a good coach. Offensively they have weapons at every position. They may be dealing, in their opinion, with some inconsistencies at quarterback, but that’s a very good player [Malik Rosier] in my opinion at quarterback. There are multiple guys on the perimeter that can score the ball from anywhere.”

Now, the intensity in practice will be ramped up leading up to the showdown. Last year, Toledo lost 52-30 at Miami and had its bye week immediately after the loss and preceding the Mid-American Conference opener against Eastern Michigan.

UT senior linebacker Tyler Taafe said regardless of the opponent, the focus of this two-week stretch isn’t any different than coming off the bye week last season.

“I don’t think it really differs at all from last year and the bye week we had then going into the next game,” Taafe said. “You have to look at it mentally like it’s another game. Your approach can’t change going into it. You know they are good but you just have to play like you know how.”

But the Rockets recognize it is not every day a top-25 opponent with the tradition of five-time national champion Miami comes to the Glass Bowl.

“I think it’s a unique opportunity,” Taafe said. “This is a top-10 program historically. The opportunity we have is pretty amazing. It’s a pretty cool experience that we will be playing the Hurricanes on Saturday.”

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

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