MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Last Sunday night, as the University of Toledo was wrapping up its practice session at the Glass Bowl, Rocket coach Tom Amstutz pulled running back Astin Martin aside and had one of those “talks” with his sophomore running back from Grand Rapids.
Martin, who led the Rockets in rushing last season with 785 yards, had just 166 yards through Toledo's first six games this year.
“He challenged me, and when the head man comes to you and sets a challenge for you, you have no choice but to step it up, or someone else is going to come in and do it,” Martin said. “I had to take advantage of it.”
At Central Michigan, Martin would be playing in front of a large contingent of fans from his hometown, and playing against the school that recruited him and offered him a scholarship.
Martin, who still holds the Grand Rapids city record in the 100-yard dash, responded with 101 yards in 16 carries, and a career-high three touchdowns.
“There was quite a few people from Grand Rapids out there, and most of my friends go to these schools up here, so this meant a little more,” Martin said. “The way the season had been going, everybody was stacking up against the run, but today our offensive line was right there every play. We wanted to come out and just pound the ball.”
Amstutz said he got just what he expected from Martin, who has been backing up starter Trinity Dawson at tailback all season.
“He lives right down the block from here, and I knew this game was important to him,” Amstutz said. “Astin's a good football player and he'd be a starter and play on everybody's team, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to carry the ball and get his 100 yards, which he did. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry, which is what Trinity Dawson averaged, which shows that these two guys are good football players and they both have equal ability.”
FAASEN ON THE RUN: UT's book of gadgetry got a little thicker yesterday when the Rockets, faced with a fourth-and-three at their own 29 early in the second quarter.
The ball was snapped to 6-8, 352-pound offensive tackle Erik Faasen, who was one of the blockers in front of punter Brandon Hannum. Faasen found instant daylight, running 22 yards for a first down at the CMU 49, and Toledo continued its drive for a touchdown that put the Rockets up 28-7.
“That's the first time I've ever touched the ball - period,” Faasen said. “I just wanted to get control of the ball because I bobbled it for a few steps, and then I just saw some open space, saw someone try to tackle me, and I just tried to run him over.”
“Maybe I let Erik live one of my fantasies,” Amstutz said. “Really, that's just part of what we do - we have some different things to keep teams off-balance. It's also fun for our players to practice it. It's used only at the right time of the game, under the right conditions.”
BIG RUSH: The Rockets chalked up one for diversity yesterday, making their offense more of a run-oriented attack after Central Michigan had seen so much passing on the films of previous games.
“I'm glad it happened the way it did,” Gradkowski said. “It shows we have the ability to run, pass, or use play action - we're very diverse out there. We needed the running game to get started, especially with the way the wind was out there.”
MOORE AND MOORE: UT wide receiver Lance Moore had 13 receptions for 105 yards, giving the junior from Westerville four straight games with at least 10 catches and at least 100 yards in receptions.