Steve Odom isn t known to be a slow starter. After all, two seasons ago he set a Toledo freshman record with 62 receptions and bumped his career totals to 115 catches and 1,500-plus yards with a fine sophomore season.
But through seven games this season he had not caught more than four passes nor accounted for more than 54 receiving yards in any single outing.
That changed during the last two weeks with seven catches against Central Michigan and season highs of nine catches and 107 yards in Friday night s UT win at Ohio University.
There were some situations, I guess, where defenses took me out of plays, but it was more that other receivers were running great routes and getting open, Odom said. We get into every game and take whatever there is to take.
It would make sense that opponents, knowing Odom was UT s only experienced receiver, might have given him special attention early in the season, but Rocket coach Tom Amstutz debunks that theory.
I really don t think it was that so much as our style of multiple formations, Amstutz said. The way we approach it, we really don t have a go-to guy.
If it turns out that the Rockets need one with the season in its stretch run, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski feels it will be Odom, who has caught at least one pass in 34 straight games and ranks No.5 on UT s all-time receptions list.
In key games, Odom is going to step up and be a playmaker for us, Gradkowski said. We re moving him around on the field more now and we have to keep finding ways of getting him the ball.
Odom says he knows he s under the gun with a MAC West title on the line over the next couple weeks. That bid continues with a game a week from tonight against Northern Illinois at the Glass Bowl.
I have to be at the top of my game reading defenses, making blocks, running great routes, doing whatever it takes, he said. I have to lead by example and make sure everybody is pushing himself.
RUSH TO RUN: In Toledo s loss at Central Michigan on Oct. 29, Trinity Dawson had nine carries for nine yards. In a win last Friday at Ohio, Dawson carried 28 times for 167 yards.
Same guy, Dawson cracked earlier this week.
Central, which sports a solid defensive front, loaded the box to stop Dawson, who entered that game with three straight 100-yard outings.
We had to try and take what they were giving us that day, he said. We had to throw to get the ball downfield. Against Ohio, the offensive line opened up some great lanes and gave me opportunities to make plays.
The Rockets rushed for 293 yards against Ohio, with Quinton Broussard chipping in with 68 yards on nine runs.
They give us a nice change of pace, Amstutz said. Trinity is like a fastball, running straight and hard. Quinton is more of a curve with his cuts and shifts to get outside.
Dawson, a senior from Tulsa, Okla., ranks No. 3 on UT s all-time rushing list (3,076 yards) despite not having a 1,000-yard season. He can accomplish that with 104 yards in the Rockets remaining games.
IT S PERSONAL: The Rockets were flagged for three dead-ball personal foul penalties at Ohio, the most since they were hit with five such penalties in the season opener against Western Illinois.
Toledo has committed 72 penalties worth 646 yards in nine games.
That includes 16 personal fouls and five other major infractions roughing-the-passer or 15-yard facemask penalties which are not dead-ball calls but occur at the end of plays.
UT and Central Michigan are the most-penalized teams in the MAC, each with 72. CMU has been assessed more penalty yardage with 675 yards.
SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: Toledo cornerback Nigel Morris was knocked out of the first half of the Ohio game with what was announced in the press box as a shoulder injury. He did not return to the game.
Amstutz would not confirm the injury and simply said, Morris was shaken up. I expect him to be back for the Northern Illinois game.
THREE-DOT DATA: Gradkowski s 22 completions Friday at Ohio bumped his career total to 709, making him the eighth quarterback in MAC history to reach the 700 mark. ... Three field goals and three extra-point kicks gave UT s Jason Robbins 303 career points scored, making him one of six kickers in league annals to score 300-plus points. ... Sam Hurd s 266 receiving yards for Northern Illinois last Saturday at Central Michigan was a school record and the second-most in a single MAC game. The league record is 297 yards by Brian Oliver of Ball State in a 1993 game vs. UT. ... Western Michigan (6-3, 4-2 in MAC) needs one win to post the most dramatic turnaround in league history. No team has ever gone winless in league play one season and won five MAC games the next. ... The Rockets have been off since returning from Friday s win at Ohio and, with 12 days between games, will not return to practice until this Friday.
Contact Dave Hackenberg at:email@example.com or 419-724-6398