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Published: Tuesday, 10/6/2009

Beckman cries foul as penalties mount

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

There was a black X through the Ball State logo on the "Drive for 5" poster hanging on the wall of the team meeting room yesterday at the University of Toledo's Larimer Athletic Complex.

UT escaped Muncie, Ind., with a 37-30 victory Saturday over the winless Cardinals, thanks to receiver Stephen Williams' 51-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Aaron Opelt with 27 seconds to go.

But had the Rockets not committed 12 penalties for 104 yards, they probably wouldn't have needed a late comeback.

It was the second time that UT has been docked 100 penalty yards or more this season, and because of that, the Rockets rank as the most penalized team in the Mid-American Conference. UT has been flagged 45 times for an average of 75.2 yards per game.

"It's constantly killing us," UT coach Tim Beckman said. "We constantly talk about it and push it that we're not going to have those penalties."

As for ways to combat the issue of excessive penalties, Beckman has taken a hard-nosed approach with his players.

"We've done a lot of extra running and all that good stuff," Beckman said with a smile. "I haven't told them this yet, but the next thing I'm going to take away if we keep getting penalties is their food. No, but we have to do better. As the head football coach, that to me is [a lack of] discipline, and that is not what I want."

Beckman added that he plans on having referees at practices this week ensuring that the Rockets are playing within the rules.

Opelt joked that he might even take matters into his own hands in practice.

"I'm going to start calling holds, I think, especially on the defense," Opelt said.

In all seriousness, though, the Rockets understand they have to cut down on the penalties if they want to be successful, especially against a quality MAC West division foe in Western Michigan on Saturday night at the Glass Bowl.

At one point during the game against Ball State, Opelt and some of the other leaders for UT stood up and made it clear to the rest of the team that the penalties needed to stop.

"We can't have an undisciplined team," Opelt said. "We've been shooting ourselves in the foot, and even though we won that game, you can't expect to keep pulling those out. A 100 yards-plus in penalties is a big reason for the game being so close."

AWARDS: Williams and Opelt were both honored for their efforts against Ball State.

Williams was named the MAC West division offensive player of the week after hauling in 10 catches for a career-best 231 yards and two touchdowns. His 231 receiving yards was the second-best mark in school history in a single game. Kenny Higgins holds the record of 233 yards, set against Ball State in 2004.

Opelt is one of four candidates for AT&T national player of the week. Fans can select the winner by text messaging the word "vote" to 345345.

INJURY UPDATES: Freshman linebacker Robert Bell (knee) is expected to return this week, while sophomore tight end Danny Noble (ankle) is still questionable, Beckman said.

"I would say that if it's up to Danny Noble, Danny Noble will play," Beckman added.

Beckman also said junior cornerback and Rogers grad Myshan Veasley-Pettis will sit out the Western Michigan game with an MCL sprain in his knee, and freshman running back Darius Reeves will miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder.

Beckman added that UT might seek an extra year of eligibility for junior cornerback Desmond Marrow, who has been slow to return after suffering a torn ACL against Northern Illinois last season.

"We're going to see what we can do with Dez," Beckman said, "because we want him around. He has done a great job of leading our young secondary. He is there with them everyday. Although he can't play for us right now, that young man has done more for this team than some of the guys that are playing."

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com



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