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HomeSportsUT
Published: Friday, 9/2/2005

Gradkowski finds a new target

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
John Allen (with knee on ground) is mobbed after catching a TD pass from Bruce Gradkowski.
John Allen (with knee on ground) is mobbed after catching a TD pass from Bruce Gradkowski.
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Bruce Gradkowski's first touchdown pass of the season not only was caught by a true freshman, but by a true freshman walk-on.

John Allen, a 6-5, 215-pound tight end from Chicago, made something of a circus catch on the first play of the second quarter to give the University of Toledo a 20-0 lead in last night's opener against Western Illinois at the Glass Bowl.

Allen adjusted his original route and went high with three defenders surrounding him in the back, right corner of the end zone. He twisted in mid-air before coming down with the ball for a four-yard score.

"The first [receiver] was covered and I saw Allen going to the back of the end zone and he made a great play on the ball," Gradkowski said after UT wrapped up a 62-14 rout. "I just lofted it to him and he made an outstanding play. I really didn't realize how many [defenders] were around him until they all went up."

UT coach Tom Amstutz said Allen "just worked his way onto the field during camp and he went out and played the way he practiced. It's not easy for any true freshman, especially a walk-on, to get a chance to be out there on opening night making plays like that."

Asked if Davis would be put on scholarship, Amstutz quipped: "I'll have to check my piggy-bank."

NFL PRESENCE: There were 11 NFL scouts at last night's game, including representatives of the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.

One of the veterans, Dave Smith of the Buffalo Bills, said the Thursday night game had a lot to do with what was a large representation at a game involving a Mid-American Conference school and a Division I-AA opponent.

"It's an opportunity to see two teams with rated players," said Smith, a onetime player and assistant coach at Michigan State who is in his 29th year with the Bills. "Where else are we going to be on a Thursday night?"

When Smith checked into his Toledo hotel yesterday afternoon, the clerk saw his Bills shirt and said, "You guys don't need a quarterback; what are you doing here?" Smith said he answered: "What makes you think there aren't other players on that team?"

While Gradkowski is certainly the highest-rated prospect on the UT roster, the scouts were also looking at offensive guard Chris Wakeman, safety Keon Jackson and the linebacking duo of Anthony Jordan and David Thomas.

Western Illinois running back Travis Glasford is also rated by most pro scouts and was another reason for the large number of scouts. UT's defense held him to 59 yards on 22 carries.

A MAC FIRST: Instant replay was used in a MAC stadium last night for the first time.

The MAC, which will use replay in all home games this season, is following the Big Ten's model that debuted last year.

All reviews and decisions come from a technical advisor in the press box. There is no limit on the number of plays reviewed, but coaches cannot initiate any reviews.

The system was tested only once last night when the technical advisor upheld a call on the field that the knee of UT receiver Andre Redd had touched down at the WIU 1 after a 26-yard gain and was not a touchdown.

COACHING BITS: Toledo's Tom Amstutz is 5-0 in home openers - the average margin of victory has been 36.2 points - and is 3-0 against Division I-AA opponents.

Last night's loss to UT marked the first setback for WIU coach Don Patterson in five games against MAC foes. In previous years, the Leathernecks had defeated Eastern Michigan, Ball State and Northern Illinois twice.

"That was one of the more unusual first halves I've seen," Patterson said. "The total yards were very close [181-126, in UT's favor] but we were down 42-0. We did everything wrong in terms of turnovers, and Toledo certainly took advantage."

HE'S NO. 3: Richard Davis' 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half is the third-longest such return in UT history. Chuck Hardy's 100-yard return against John Carroll in 1948 still stands as the record.



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