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For the past three weeks, the University of Toledo football team has made believers of the faithful at the Glass Bowl.
Tonight, a national audience will be the judge.
UT plays in Muncie, Ind., looking for its first road win of the season at Ball State. The game, which will be televised on ESPN2, features two teams vying for one of the Mid-American Conference's three bowl bids.
The winner will extend its chances another week, while the loser will probably be eliminated from earning a bowl bid.
The Rockets (5-5, 3-3 MAC) hope the extra three days between games hasn't cooled off their offense. Over the past three games, all wins, UT has averaged 55 points and 628 yards. It has had four individual 100-yard rushing and four individual 100-yard receiving performances.
"When you execute like that on offense, it gives you a chance to win every game," UT coach Tom Amstutz said.
But Ball State (5-5, 3-2) is close behind UT in offensive production. The Rockets are ranked first and the Cardinals second in the MAC in total offense. UT has better rushing statistics and Ball State's offense is more focused on the passing game.
The Rockets know Ball State quarterback Nate Davis well, having recruited him for several years and seeing him beat UT last season. Davis, a sophomore from Bellaire, Ohio, has thrown for 22 TDs with just six interceptions this year, and leads the MAC with 2,785 passing yards.
"I know it's going to be our first real test besides Kansas as far as our secondary goes," safety Lester Richmond said. "We're going to have to play the pass great. But the first thing we have to do is stop the run."
The Rockets' defensive backfield will have to be at its best, but it will need help from the defensive line. UT's line has only nine sacks, the least of any MAC team. The Rockets had two in their last game against Eastern Michigan and hope to build off that.
"We want to get some pressure on [Davis] when he's passing and try to slow their running game down, try to get them in third-and-long situations," Amstutz said.
Last season the Rockets won only one road game, and they are 0-3 away from the Glass Bowl this year. The players say they can overcome their road troubles if they avoid a slow start.
"We've just got to come out firing fast and take their crowd out of the game," sophomore tailback DaJuane Collins said. "That's the biggest thing. If we get their crowd out of the game it's just like a regular game to us."
The Rockets are 14-13 on national TV under Amstutz. Last year UT played on ESPN2 four times, winning three. The one loss was at home to Ball State.
"Our players love to play on television," Amstutz said. "They grew up in high school wanting to play on television. They're going to be excited for that."
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