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Published: Friday, 10/22/2004

CMU's running worries Amstutz

It is all about perspective as the opposing coaches size each other up for tomorrow night's Mid-American Conference game at the Glass Bowl.

University of Toledo coach Tom Amstutz looks at Central Michigan and he sees: big offensive line, big running game, big problems.

Central's Brian Kelly watches the Rockets on film and he also sees big problems: an offense built around getting the ball in the hands of skilled players, and skilled players at every position.

They profess to be equally fright-filled, even though the Chippewas come in on a two-game losing streak, and Toledo has won five straight. Amstutz said diminutive tailback Jerry Seymour, the MAC's leading rusher, 6-5 quarterback Kent Smith from Start High, and 6-7, 328-pound offensive tackle Adam Kieft get his attention.

"Their line is still very big and very good, and they can really run the ball," Amstutz said. "That running back is hard to find behind that big line, and he is quicker than greased lightning.

"Central Michigan is a very real threat running the ball, and that quarterback is very athletic. He can run, and he can throw it. They have the capability of making plays."

Kelly, who won two national championships at Grand Valley State before taking over at Central Michigan this season, knows why the Rockets lead the MAC in total offense and are second in scoring. His team faced Michigan State earlier this season, and he sees similarities.

"Toledo has skilled players at every position," Kelly said. "I would put Toledo's skill level right up there with that of Michigan State. But, I love the challenge. It's a great one, but we're going to go to Toledo and give it everything we have."

Amstutz said his team has to approach the game with no sense of security, despite the fact Toledo has won 28 of its last 29 games at the Glass Bowl.

"This is another football game where I am not relaxed or taking anything casually," Amstutz said. "This is a championship-level game for us in terms of intensity, and it's another MAC West game that we're doing everything we can to win. They run a spread offense that is pretty dangerous and it can break loose on any given night. We know we're in for a dogfight."

Amstutz said the Rockets, who have averaged more than 45 points per game over their winning streak and have the nation's top-rated quarterback in terms of efficiency in junior Bruce Gradkowski, have to take control of the game from the start.

"If they have some success early, it can get them momentum and make us frustrated and make us work against ourselves," he said. "Our approach is going to be no different than it was against any of the other teams we've played. We are focused only on this one game. We want to start fast and take it right to this team as fast as we can."

The UT defense will have to figure into the plans in a significant role, if that is to happen.

"As a group, I think we accept each challenge head on," junior linebacker Anthony Jordan said. "We know we'll have to control their running game and force them out of the things they are comfortable with. We're improving as a defense each week, and we need to keep that up and keep this team winning."

- Matt Markey



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