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Published: Tuesday, 10/21/2008

Amstutz reacts to Rockets reacting

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The biggest thing that stood out to coach Tom Amstutz from the University of Toledo's loss to Northern Illinois was the Rockets were reacting to plays instead of making them.

In dropping to 2-5, the Rockets had just 229 yards of offense, and no one on the defense had a sack, broke up a pass or forced a turnover. NIU won 38-7.

"Their pads were lower, their knees were bent a little bit better than ours and they were ready for a more physical game than we were," Amstutz said. "We were there to make plays and they were the ones falling forward.

"Football is a game of inches and that's literally true many days. They were falling forward and we were falling back. They won that collision battle."

As the Rockets get ready for 5-2 Central Michigan this week, Amstutz wants to better prepare his team for those collisions. The Rockets have fewer injuries this year than at this time last year so it's a luxury he can afford.

"I want to work our [first string] against [second string] more to get a little more physical contact in practice," Amstutz said. "I want to get a faster tempo."

The NIU game was quite a contrast from UT's win over Michigan, when the Rockets did well controlling the line of scrimmage.

"We can do it. We've got to get back to that," Amstutz said.

Being ready physically is only half the battle. After losing four of their last five games, the Rockets know a positive attitude is key if they want to salvage their season.

"The biggest thing for us is to come out with excitement, we have to bounce back," quarterback Aaron Opelt said. "They're the two-time MAC champs. It's time for us to realize we do have a good team, we have to play well and execute our game plan."

INJURY UPDATE: Amstutz said Opelt is "probable" for the CMU game after he left the NIU game with a leg injury with 12 1/2 minutes remaining. Opelt wouldn't comment on his status for the game.

Freshman Kenny Veal is expected to start at cornerback in place of sophomore Desmond Marrow, who hurt his knee on the opening kickoff in a collision. Marrow is scheduled for an MRI on his knee this week. Veal has played in every game and has nine tackles.

Tailback DaJuane Collins has been hampered the last few games with a lingering ankle injury. Since he returned on Oct. 4 against Ball State, Collins has averaged just under eight carries a game.

"I'm doing better, not as good as I want to be, but hopefully I'll be there soon," Collins said. "Even if I can't give it all to the team physically, me being out there on the field as a presence hopefully helps."

QB CAROUSEL: UT likely won't know which quarterback will start for CMU until the game starts Saturday. Last weekend reigning MAC player of the year Dan LeFevour sat out with an ankle injury and Brian Brunner started in his place. Brunner completed 20 of 28 passes for 346 yards and a touchdown in a win over Western Michigan.

LeFevour is the team's leading rusher, whereas Brunner ran for 22 yards Saturday. Amstutz said the team will prepare for both quarterbacks, but "I expect [LeFevour] to be back," he said.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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