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HomeSportsUT
Published: 9/12/2006

0-2 Rockets have been there before

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

This isn't the first time a University of Toledo football team has been 0-2 under coach Tom Amstutz. It happened in 2004 and the Rockets rebounded with six straight wins en route to a Mid-American Conference championship and a bowl appearance.

This isn't the first time UT has found itself behind the 8-ball in the MAC under Amstutz. They were sidetracked by losses to Ball State and Miami, respectively, in 2001 and '02, yet fought back to reach MAC title games, winning one and losing one, and gain a pair of bowl berths.

But this is the first time the Amstutz-coached Rockets have been 0-1 in the MAC, surrendering any margin of error from the get-go.

And no Toledo team has started a season 0-3 since 1988.

So while Amstutz is far from ready to push any panic buttons, there is some urgency involved with Friday night's home opener against Kansas (2-0)."No, no panic button," Amstutz said yesterday. "I just told the players the story of the 2004 season. We lost our first two games 63-21 and 63-14, and we had the biggest losing [scoring differential] margin in the nation. We went 9-2 the rest of the way, won the MAC, and played in a bowl game.

"So anything is still possible. The season is two weeks old and a lot can be accomplished. It's up to us to make up our minds to do so."

One of those early-season poundings in 2004, the 63-14 one, came at the hands of Kansas on the road.

"I'm sure they'll come in here pretty confident because of that," Amstutz said. "It's a short week, so we have to get better and we have to get better fast."

Doing that will start with the energy the Rockets bring to the game, said running back Jalen Parmele, who rushed for 111 yards during UT's 31-10 setback Saturday night in the MAC opener at Western Michigan.

"Honestly, I think we took [Western] a little too lightly," Parmele said. "After the energy we played with at Iowa State, I think we expected to win and then didn't get it done.

"After any loss, you'd better adjust and learn. And we learned that anything can happen if we're not at our best. If you let a team strike, they'll strike first. We can't allow that."

Linebacker Mike Alston said the 0-2 start has left the Rockets with an urgency to get things turned around.

"We don't like losing, period," he said. "We have to get our spirits back up and we have to be focused. We love performing in front of Toledo fans and we want to be at our best Friday."

Alston said the Rockets aren't even thinking about the possibility of being 0-3 for the first time in 18 seasons.

"We know we're 0-2," he said. "We're fighting for a victory. But 0-3? Hey, we're thinking about nothing except what we have to do to win."

UT has not lost two straight at the Glass Bowl during the 2000s, and that will be another thing on the minds of the Rockets while preparing for Friday's game.

Toledo, 34-2 at home since losing two in a row midway through the 1999 season, had a 17-game Glass Bowl winning streak snapped in the final home game of 2005. That was a 35-17 decision against Northern Illinois.

"We have great pride in the tradition of the program," said quarterback Clint Cochran. "But that's the past. The present is now and we need to win. That's all we're focused on."

That 63-14 loss at Kansas is also in the past, but the Rockets might have to focus on it for a while this week.

"We might get that film out," Amstutz said. "Yeah, our players might have a chance to look at it."

It might be that there's no might about it.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398



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