Tom Amstutz, the University of Toledo's head football coach, says he loves underdogs, which must be why he has a soft spot for players like Pete Lepley and Quinton Broussard.
Lepley is a senior wide receiver from Bellevue, Ohio, who caught five passes for 78 yards, including his second career touchdown reception, in Saturday's 56-23 romp past Western Michigan.
Lepley began his college career at Division II Ashland University, then spent his first three years in the Toledo program as a non-scholarship player.
Broussard, also a senior, was among the Mid-American Conference's top 10 active rushers entering the season with 823 career yards. He scored his second and third touchdowns of the season on Saturday.
"The thing is, he's in his fourth year here and he's never been the No. 1 guy," Amstutz said yesterday. "
There are always other guys ahead of Quinton on the depth chart. Heck, he's No. 4 at running back right now. Instead of having a bad attitude and complaining, all it does is make him work even harder. He's totally unselfish, and when the team needs him he always does something."
Against Western, Broussard, a 5-foot-9, 203-pounder from Carrollton, Texas, scored on runs of 17 yards and 46 yards.
"He's our second-leading scorer after [kicker] Jason Robbins and he's on the fourth team," Amstutz said. "The more guys you have like Broussard, the better you're going to be."
The same applies to the 6-1, 200-pound Lepley, who refused to be discouraged while spending three seasons as a walk-on and seeing limited action.
He did not play in 2002, appeared in two games without any catches in '03, and caught five passes in six games last season. One of them, however, was a 56-yard touchdown reception in mop-up duty against Minnesota.
"I walked on and I stuck with it," Lepley said.
"I've had a lot of great support. The coaches are tremendous. You can't tell who's on scholarship and who isn't because everybody is treated fairly. I always had it in my mind that I could play Division I-A football, so that was my incentive in transferring and staying with it.
"I just want to do what I can to help the team. I'm glad I'm contributing more, but if I wasn't starting then my job would be to push other guys to be the best they can be. I always figured if I earned a scholarship, great. If not, then I'd do whatever I could to make us better."
Amstutz gave Lepley financial aid this season and, two games in, he ranks No.●2 among UT's receivers with six catches for 91 yards, an average of 15.2 yards per catch.
"He earned it," Amstutz said. "He started on the bottom, was hungry for a chance, kept on working and now he's starting in the receiver rotation.
"I'm for the underdog. You see a guy who gives sweat and blood like Lepley, or somebody like Broussard who never gets discouraged and keeps on producing, I really appreciate guys like that."
LEAGUE AWARD: Rocket linebacker Anthony Jordan was named the MAC West Division defensive player of the week. He had 12 tackles, two for losses, and helped limit Western Michigan to an average of 2.8 yards per rush on 30 running attempts last Saturday.
GRID NOTES: Scooter McDougle, UT's star running back down the stretch last season before undergoing off-season knee surgery, saw his first game action last Saturday as the wing blocker for point-after kicks and field goals. .●.●. Amstutz said that tight end Andrew Clarke, who missed all of last season with a hip injury, has been cleared to play. "But that's not saying he's 100 per cent game-healthy or football-healthy. It's going to be a week-to-week thing, as it is for Scooter [as a running back]. We'll see how they practice." .●.●. Recruit Kevin Hobbins, a 6-7, 302-pound offensive lineman from Canada, has been OK'd by the NCAA Clearinghouse and has joined the Rockets. "He's cleared and he's eligible," Amstutz said. "The plan right now is to redshirt him. He's a big guy who could really develop." .●.●. Late in the Western Michigan game, UT punter Brett Kern had a punt blocked for a touchdown. Amstutz blamed it on a protection mistake with a number of subs in the game. .●.●. Saturday's game at Temple will be televised live by BCSN at 1 p.m.
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