Saturday, Oct 01, 2016
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Dave Hackenberg

Rockets' win carries extra points

Five things I think I think after the University of Toledo’s impressive 29-23 upset of nationally-ranked Cincinnati Saturday night at the Glass Bowl:

  • The Rockets’ defense probably isn’t as bad as it looked while giving up 624 yards to Eastern Michigan a week earlier and it probably isn’t as good as it looked at times in the game against nationally-ranked UC. It is, frankly, a work in progress.

This has been a struggling unit for several years, it is been sliced up by injuries to some key people, and there will be no quick fix for rookie head coach Matt Campbell and new coordinator Tom Matukewicz. Their task is a marathon, not a sprint.

But UT’s coaches had to be thrilled with the way the Rockets responded after being whip-lashed by a bad EMU offense.

If there was a key moment against Cincy, it was after Campbell surprised everybody in the stadium with an onside kick following a UT touchdown that produced a six-point lead late in the third quarter.

It was a perfect call, perfectly executed except for one problem. Dwight Macon of the Rockets muffed an easy recovery and the Bearcats got the ball at their own 48 yard line.

Defensive end Jayrone Elliott led the charge for UT and the Rockets forced a three-and-out and a Cincinnati punt.

The Bearcats were held to a lone field goal the rest of the way.

  • UT has had any number of crack receivers manning key special teams return roles in recent years and junior Bernard Reedy is proving to be among the best of them.

His 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the third quarter was his third special teams TD in as many weeks. He has scored on two kickoff returns and one punt return. He also has more than 700 receiving yards.

Reedy is one of those worth-the-price-of-admission guys.

  • If Reedy is Mr. Big Play on offense and special teams, then Jermaine Robinson would be his defensive counterpart.

He jumped a route in front of a Cincinnati receiver midway through the first quarter and took an interception untouched 75 yards for a touchdown that gave the Rockets a 10-0 lead.

It was the senior strong safety’s second pick six of the season and his fourth in the last two years.

  • UT running back David Fluellen had 59 yards rushing at halftime, but by the end of the Rockets’ first possession of the second half had his fourth straight 100-yard game.

Fluellen is listed at 6-feet and 215 pounds, but his solid and stocky build makes him look bigger, certainly to opposing defenders.

He dragged six would-be Cincinnati tacklers for a 17-yard gain into Bearcat territory and later took a direct snap and rambled 16 yards down to the UC 2.

The Rockets had to settle for a field goal, but that failure to punch in a touchdown didn’t come back to haunt them.

  • Ohio college football is having quite a year at the FBS level, or what used to be known as Division I-A.

There were 12 unbeaten teams in the nation entering play Saturday and three of them were Ohio State, Cincinnati and Ohio.

(Insert gratuitous Mid-American Conference plug here: Urban Meyer of the Buckeyes and UC’s Butch Jones both started their head coaching careers at MAC schools.)

OSU produced a stirring rally to beat Purdue in overtime, Ohio was idle, and Cincinnati, ranked No. 21 in the AP poll and 18th in the coaches’ poll, was the only one to take a step back.

The Rockets, meanwhile, saw their winning streak grown to seven while improving to 7-1, and Kent State won Saturday to go to 6-1, making both MAC teams bowl eligible already. Bowling Green, which won its fifth with a shutout of UMass, should join them in the near future, perhaps next Saturday when Eastern Michigan visits the Doyt.

Not bad.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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