LAWRENCE, Kan. - As many expected it would, the University of Toledo football team is setting records this season. But so far, it has been all the wrong kinds of records for the Rockets.
A 63-14 loss to Kansas here last night means Toledo has given up 126 points in the first two games of the season - a dubious mark that is the most in the modern era.
Toledo allowed a school-record 49 points in the first half against the Jayhawks while burying itself in an impossible hole with turnovers and poor field position. Last week the Rockets gave up 42 first-half points in a 63-21 loss at Minnesota, which at the time tied the existing mark.
Until last night, UT had not surrendered 50-plus points in back-to-back games in its modern history. The Rockets had not allowed more than 50 points twice in any one season in more than half a century.
"At the start of the game, we kept giving Kansas a short field, and that let things snowball," UT head coach Tom Amstutz said. "And then with the turnovers - once again, giving a team as good as Kansas a short field - that is going to put your team in jeopardy."
For a second straight week, Toledo managed little more than a whimper from its vaunted offense while the game was in contention, and was thoroughly overwhelmed on defense. The 501 yards of offense the Rockets allowed last night, combined with the 704 yards UT allowed at Minnesota,
certainly amounts to another record for futility.
Just like the nightmare in Minneapolis, this one got out of hand early. The game was barely 10 minutes old and the Rockets were down 21-0.
"It's just all the little things out there," UT's junior quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said. "We'll start to get in a rhythm and something will break down, and each guy out there has their own mistake, on a different play."
After Kansas had scored quickly on its first two possessions with drives that started near midfield, a Gradkowski pass was batted high in the air by Kansas end David McMillan, and linebacker Nick Reid picked it off and returned it to the Toledo 5-yard line.
Two plays later, the Jayhawks had a 21-0 lead. After a couple more UT possessions that failed to net a first down, Kansas put the ball in play at the Toledo 45 and Adam Barmann hit John Randle with a quick screen, and Randle had room to run and enough blockers and momentum to go 55 yards for another score and a 28-0 lead.
"When you play a team like Kansas, or a Minnesota, you have to come with your 'A' game, and we haven't done that yet," Gradkowski said. "We know we're a good football team, but we have to start putting things together."
Gradkowski (15-of-28, two interceptions) threw into double-coverage trying to find Lance Moore on Toledo's next possession and safety Tony Stubbs intercepted the ball and returned it to near midfield. Two long pass plays had the Jayhawks on the scoreboard again for a 35-0 advantage.
Kansas continued to feast on the short field the Rockets kept giving them. When Gradkowski lost the handle on the ball as he tried to drop back from his own 20, Charlton Keith recovered for Kansas and lumbered into the end zone for a defensive touchdown and a 42-0 lead with almost 12 minutes to play in the first half.
"We made too many errors, fumbles, tipped balls that were intercepted - those kinds of things allow teams to put a lot of points on the board in a short amount of time," Amstutz said. "We have to get better on both sides of the ball."
Toledo finally got on the scoreboard with just over two minutes left in the first half when Gradkowski hit Steve Odom on a short route, and Odom slipped a couple of tackles before sprinting down the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown.
"We prepared for them just like any other team," defensive back Michael Broussard said. "They just came out and made plays, and we tried to respond, but they played a good game."
A pass interception by Toledo defensive back Keon Jackson gave the Rockets the ball near midfield with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter, and after Gradkowski found Higgins for a 23-yard gain, he scrambled out of trouble and fired a bullet to Higgins in the back of the end zone for the Rockets' second score.
Kansas (2-0) added a couple more touchdowns to stretch the margin to 63-14, and send the Rockets (0-2) into their Mid-American Conference opener at Eastern Michigan next week.
NOTES: Toledo's already undermanned defensive line took another hit when senior Phil Alexander, the only member of the group with any significant experience, was unable to make the trip after injuring his knee in practice late last week. That meant reshman Bernard Faithful had to be moved into the starting lineup. ... Kansas put the wraps on senior wide receiver Lance Moore, who last year led the nation with 103 catches. Moore caught just three passes for nine yards. ... Senior tight end Andrew Clarke missed his second straight game with a hip injury. ... Junior kicker Jason Robbins did not make the trip as he recovers from a bout of stomach flu. Freshman Mike Krispinsky filled in.
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