To the casual college football fan who checks box scores every week, the University of Toledo's defense has not improved from last year.
The Rockets are last in the Mid-American Conference, allowing 37 points a game. And their red zone defense is also at the bottom.
But yard for yard, UT's defense is faring all right. The Rockets are ranked fourth in total defense and are in the top half of the league against the run and against the pass.
"I've seen a lot of resilience from the defense," defensive tackle Skylaar Constant said. "We've stood up in certain situations that maybe in years past we might not have done well in. We accept the challenge, we don't blame anybody else. We just take the situation for what it is."
The defense will have a chance to quiet critics tonight based on its performance against Ball State. The 1-3 Rockets host the 5-0 Cardinals at 7 p.m. at the Glass Bowl.
Against Florida International last week, the defense was put in some difficult situations because of turnovers and special-teams breakdowns. FIU had five drives starting on UT's side of the field, and scored on four of them.
"I thought we were stubborn and battled," said UT coach Tom Amstutz of the defense, but added, "There's room for improvement."
To this point Ball State quarterback Nate Davis has played near flawless football, with 11 touchdowns to three interceptions and 71 percent pass completions.
UT senior defensive lineman Sean Williamson has seen something about Davis on film he would like to take advantage of, though.
"He likes to sit back there and look around, so hopefully that will give us some time to get some pressure on him," Williamson said. "If we can put pressure on him, I think he'll crumble. He's not too good with that."
After losing the last two weeks at the Glass Bowl, the Rockets are hoping to take advantage of playing at home in front of a Homecoming crowd.
"We've had two home games and two losses," tailback DaJuane Collins said. "It's important for us to come out and end this little home stretch with a win. We're looking forward to it."
The Rockets are in full conference mode now, and know the importance of this game as it relates to their goal of a MAC West division title. UT is 1-0 in the MAC and Ball State is 2-0.
"If we lose this game, it takes us out of the championship race," Williamson said. "We got our mistakes out in an out-of-conference game, that way we can come into this game and have mistake-free football and beat Ball State."
Some UT players said they were overconfident heading into last week, which resulted in a loss. The Rockets hope to bounce back and will also see if they can catch Ball State off guard as well.
"They're going to have their heads up high, thinking they can't be beat," Collins said. "We've got to play an excellent game like we did against Fresno and not show up like we did this past weekend."
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