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Published: Wednesday, 9/27/2006

Cochran may start at Pittsburgh

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

If he is healthy and cleared to play by the University of Toledo's medical staff, Clint Cochran will be the Rockets' starter at quarterback Saturday against Pittsburgh, coach Tom Amstutz said.

But, he added, it's still a big "if."

After sitting out UT's 41-7 win over McNeese State last Saturday, Cochran took part in the Rockets' practice sessions Sunday and yesterday.

"He had an excellent [Sunday] practice and threw the ball well, so that's encouraging," Amstutz said. "But we'll look at him in each practice this week. We'll evaluate all three of [the quarterbacks] and decide who plays. The good news is we have depth at that position."

Brandon Summers, a red-shirt freshman, started against McNeese and completed 11 of 17 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. True freshman Aaron Opelt played half the game and completed 6 of 12 passes for 65 yards. He showed the best scrambling ability and rushed six times for 41 yards.

"I thought both guys did well and showed a lot of promise," Amstutz said. "The first game isn't going to be the best game of a quarterback's career, so both will continue to improve. But I thought coach [John] Shannon did an excellent job of preparing them to step in for Clint and they provided us with continuity in running the offense."

Cochran suffered an undisclosed injury during UT's win over Kansas on Sept. 15 and practiced on a very limited basis last week.

"We're not sure who Toledo is going to play, but it won't change their offense considerably regardless of who is in the game," said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. "So we'll prepare to defend their offense, not an individual."

RISE AND SHINE: The game at Pittsburgh will start at noon and is the only game on UT's schedule this year that will kick off prior to 4 p.m. By the end of the regular season, the Rockets will have played nine games that started at 7 p.m. or later.

So the Pitt game is definitely a departure from the norm for UT's players.

"Our guys are going to have to wake up ready to play," Amstutz said. "The rest they get on Thursday and Friday nights will be very important. On Saturday, they'll have to wake up sharp and ready to go. There's a challenge involved because our players are used to a routine leading up to night games."

AIR PITT: Panther Tyler Palko is the leading passer among Division I-A quarterbacks with 12 touchdown passes and a 187.3 passer efficiency rating. By comparison, the efficiency rating of the three quarterbacks who have played for UT is a combined 110.63.

Palko's favorite target, Derek Kinder, is first nationally in receiving yards per game (111.3) and total receiving yards (445) and is tied for second with five TD receptions.

"They move it downfield and there will be a lot of balls in the air," said UT safety Barry Church. "Our secondary is going to have to be very sharp."

GRID NOTES: Toledo's Richard Davis ranks No. 8 nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 30.6 yards per attempt. UT was

6-of-6 in red-zone scoring opportunities against McNeese State and has cashed in on 15 of 18 opportunities this season inside the opponents' 20-yard line. That includes 12 touchdowns and three field goals. The Toledo-Pitt game will be televised live on ESPNU and the UT athletic department announced yesterday that ESPNU also will carry the Toledo-Central Michigan game on Oct. 7 at the Glass Bowl. There will be no change in the 7 p.m. game time. It brings the total to six Rocket games that will be nationally televised this season on one of the ESPN network stations.

AROUND CAMPUS: Having ended one drought, the UT volleyball squad (4-11) will be out to snap the king of skids in a match tomorrow night at Ball State, which has beaten the Rockets in 37 consecutive matches dating to 1986. Last weekend, UT won at Miami for the first time in 19 matches. With two wins at home last weekend, the women's soccer team is 8-2-1 at Scott Park since the start of the 2005 season. The Rockets play two more at home this weekend with Miami visiting on Friday at 4 and Ball State coming in for a 1 o'clock Sunday match. Freshman Molly Cornwell has scored four points in UT's last three matches. Jenny Belsky went 3-0 in singles play and two Toledo doubles teams met in the A flight finals - Myriam Cueva-Martina Wodzinski defeated Belsky-Maha Guirguis - in last weekend's Youngstown State Invitational. This week, the women's tennis team will compete in a tournament at Bucknell University. Senior captain Kim Kester finished third individually as the UT women's golf team posted a fourth-place finish at the Lady Irish Invitational at Notre Dame. This weekend, UT will be in the Wolverine Invitational at the University of Michigan.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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