Rocket senior Bo Martin makes one of his two interceptions against Kansas. He had suffered through a 63-14 loss in 2004.
Football coaches and players are wont to say that every game, every experience is a lesson to be filed away for future reference.
So, when the University of Toledo was preparing for last Friday's game against Kansas, Rocket cornerback Bo Martin reached into his memory file and pulled out this gem, so to speak, from the 2004 season:
Kansas 63, Toledo 14.
It was a long trip home, especially for a UT defense that had been torched for 63 points in two straight games. Needless to say, the Rockets were 0-2 and all but written off by all but their most die-hard fans. And maybe by them, too.
"We just had to go back to practice and get back to work," Martin, who was a backup and special teams player in that '04 game, said yesterday. "We had to focus on the fact that those two games were over and the future was ahead. It was up to us to determine how good the future would be."
Pretty good, as it turned out. The Rockets went 9-2 the rest of the way, won the Mid-American Conference championship and played in a bowl game.
So Martin couldn't allow himself to be devastated by UT's 0-2 start in this, his senior year.
The fact that Kansas was the third opponent, with a little payback in order, made it all the easier to lift his spirits.
"I had no concerns," said the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Fremont Ross. "We knew we could play better. And, in the back of my mind, I had that 63 points at Kansas tucked away. I felt like we owed them one.
"A couple of my former teammates, guys who had played in that game at Kansas, were down on the field before the game Friday night. I was talking with Keon Jackson and Jason Flowers and we talked about how it was our home field, our turn."
Thanks to Martin and his defense, it was just that.
Martin had two interceptions - one setting up UT's offense for an eight-yard touchdown drive and the other ending Kansas' second overtime possession - and the Rockets pulled out a 37-31 win in double OT.
"I was in the right place at the right time on both of them," Martin said of the picks. "The first one was a tipped ball and, on the second one, I was able to make a good break on it. It's always important to set the offense up in a short field."
That was especially the case after halftime when UT's offense was struggling so badly against a solid Kansas defensive front.
"You just block that out," Martin said of the offense's problems. "It's a team game. You win with all three phases - defense, offense and special teams. You keep fighting and it works out.
"As soon as I caught the interception in overtime I thought I might be able to go all the way and score to win it. But when I got knocked out of bounds I was totally confident the offense would win the game for us right then and there. And they did."
James Carnell Martin Jr. is an optimist. He was his league's defensive player of the year and a second team All-Ohio selection as a senior at Ross and was recruited by numerous MAC-level schools.
"But I loved the tradition here and the pride players had in the program," he said.
So Martin came to UT, despite the Rockets being loaded with young talent in the defensive secondary. He is a starter for the first time as a senior.
"Bo's just an outstanding young man," said UT coach Tom Amstutz. "He battled from the bottom and worked his way to the top.
"Those interceptions weren't by mistake. He's a guy who understands his responsibilities. He always stays in position and players who do that have a chance to make plays. He made a couple of really big ones against Kansas."
Martin said the win over the Jayhawks erased the 0-2 start and "we're ready now to focus on one game at a time and on winning another MAC championship.
"I think this will be my best season. And I think it will still be a great season for our team."
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