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Published: Monday, 10/10/2005

No Moore UT problem

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

What's wrong with the University of Toledo's offense?

Nothing a few fewer dropped passes won't cure.

It's probably nit-picking, considering the Rockets (4-1) are averaging 433 yards and 40.8 points per game, but the toughest tests in the Mid-American Conference are yet to come and UT would be well served if its receivers would start holding on to some key passes after beating coverage.

The Rockets beat Eastern Michigan 30-3 at the Glass Bowl on Saturday, but dropped three touchdown passes in the process.

The fact that those drops occurred in or very near the end zone accentuated a problem UT has experienced throughout the first half of the season.

If Braylon Edwards' absence is becoming more and more conspicuous in Ann Arbor, then Lance Moore's absence in Toledo should similarly be a no-brainer.

During the previous two years, UT's Bruce Gradkowski became the first NCAA Division I-A quarterback ever to post back-to-back seasons with 70 per cent completion rates.

This season, Gradkowski has completed 69 of 107 attempts, a .644 completion percentage.

The difference? No Moore, who caught everything in sight and ended his career as UT's all-time leader in catches, receiving yards, and touchdown passes caught.

With the exception of junior Steve Odom, who had a TD drop that would have given the Rockets a 17-3 lead had they not been forced to settle for a field goal early in the second quarter, the receiving corps is comprised of mostly first-year starters.

At times they have shone; at others their concentration has waned.

Complicating the issue is that Gradkowski has missed a number of practices, not to mention one game, because of injuries, a factor that has certainly impeded his ability to sharpen the timing with his receivers.

Gradkowski admitted to being "aggravated" by Saturday night's drops, but credited his receivers for "working hard to get open. We'll correct all the dropped balls."

UT coach Tom Amstutz sort of shrugged his shoulders when asked about the problem, but offered an easy solution.

"Hey, drops happen," he said. "It's uncharacteristic of some of our guys. Maybe we'll get some superglue."

QUOTE-UNQUOTE: "I was really pleased with our defensive effort. Eastern Michigan was 2-0 in the conference for a reason. I don't think any other team is going to hold them to three points again this year." - Amstutz on his team holding the EMU offense to 291 total yards.

AND ANOTHER: "Playmakers need to make plays. We did a nice job starting out drives, but once we got near the red zone we could not convert. It really comes down to our juniors and seniors not stepping up tonight." - EMU coach Jeff Genyk.

THREE-DOT DATA: Toledo free safety Tyrrell Herbert had his fifth forced fumble of the season and cornerback Nigel Morris became the fifth Rocket to make an interception. ... Morris left the field after that play in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a shoulder problem, but Amstutz said after the game that the sophomore had the wind knocked out of him. ... The Rockets scored on their first possession for the fourth time in five games. ... Considering the controversy stemming from a film exchange last season when the Rockets were reprimanded by the MAC office for deleting a fake punt play from the video provided to EMU, there was some poetic justice that it was the Eagles who employed a fake punt pass for a 24-yard gain on Saturday. ... UT won its 16th straight home game and has won 33 of its last 34 games in the Glass Bowl. The Rockets have won six straight against EMU.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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