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Published: Tuesday, 9/8/2009

University of Toledo quickly tackles fix for defense

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The bus ride back from West Lafayette, Ind., for the University of Toledo's football team wasn't exactly upbeat following Saturday's 52-31 loss to Purdue.

"There wasn't a lot of hootin' and yellin,' that's for sure," UT senior safety Lester Richmond said.

But the trip was beneficial, as UT coach Tim Beckman and the Rockets analyzed the film from their defeat immediately upon boarding the bus.

After allowing the Boilermakers to rack up 315 rushing yards, the Rockets' defenders were particularly eager to study their mistakes. As Beckman took his seat at the front of the bus and called for the tape to be cued up, several players gathered behind him.

"Barry Church and Lester [Richmond] and Beau [Brudzinski] and Archie Donald were sitting right over my shoulder watching the game," Beckman said yesterday. "They wanted to see what they needed to fix. That's a good feeling as a coach because the kids wanted to get things done immediately."

Richmond said Beckman did most of the talking on the ride home.

"Once we heard he was watching the film, we immediately got to the front because we wanted to see exactly what he was seeing," Richmond said. "We wanted to get his coaching because he's more of a defensive guy. We just wanted to get his coaching and just get better for this upcoming week."

After ranking as one of the worst defenses in the Mid-American Conference last season, UT worked all preseason with the expectation of shedding that label. Yet the Rockets still allowed the most rushing yards and points of any MAC team last weekend.

"I know the defense can play a lot better than that," Church said. "Hats off to Purdue. They played a great game, but I believe in the same sense that we beat ourselves. It was very disappointing."

Beckman and the Rockets said there were 10-15 "big chunk" plays that decided the course of Saturday's loss. They also said their mistakes were "minor" and are immediately correctable heading into Friday's primetime home opener at the Glass Bowl against Colorado.

Richmond said filling run gaps, something the Rockets didn't do a good enough job at against the Boilermakers, will be key against Colorado.

"It goes from the defensive line all the way back to the secondary," Richmond said.

"The d-line has to fit into their gaps. Then the linebackers have to get off blocks and hit their gaps, and then, ultimately, it's up to the secondary. You can't score if the secondary makes a tackle."

Toledo senior quarterback Aaron Opelt and Bowling Green senior wide receiver Freddie Barnes won MAC weekly honors.

Opelt was named MAC West Division offensive player of the week.

Opelt was 41 of 67 passing for 423 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions against Purdue. His 67 attempts set a single-game school record, while his 41 completions are second in the record books and his 423 yards rank fourth.

Opelt's totals also advanced him in UT's career passing annals, as he sits fourth in completions (512) and fifth in attempts (880).

"He might throw it a hundred [times] if we have to [against Colorado]. Whatever it takes to win," Beckman said yesterday.

"Aaron gets a lot of the credit because he threw the ball 67 times, but that offensive line protected him and didn't let him get sacked."

Barnes was named MAC East Division offensive player of the week.

Barnes set a school record with 15 receptions and a career-high 157 yards receiving in a 31-14 win over Troy.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com.



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