Dantin gets chance at QB after Opelt injury

Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller throws downfield during the second quarter. He moved into a tie for third place in Mid-American Conference history with 87 career touchdown passes.
Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller throws downfield during the second quarter. He moved into a tie for third place in Mid-American Conference history with 87 career touchdown passes.

University of Toledo freshman quarterback Austin Dantin saw his first action of the season last night against Western Michigan because of an injury to senior Aaron Opelt.

Opelt was injured late in the first quarter but continued to play with the injury although he was favoring his right (throwing) shoulder.

During a UT timeout with 8:38 remaining in the second, Opelt jogged to the locker room, while Dantin warmed up on the sideline.

Moments later on second-and-10 from the WMU 26-yard line, Dantin's career got off to a bit of an inauspicious start when he was hit by Broncos free safety Doug Wiggins and fumbled. Dantin managed to recover the loose ball, but his next play wasn't much better.

Under heavy pressure from linebacker Paul Hazel, the Tallahassee native was hit as he threw and the ball fell incomplete.

The Rockets weren't able to capitalize on the drive, either, as kicker Alex Steigerwald missed wide right on a 45-yard field goal attempt.

Dantin's next possession went much more smoothly, however.

Despite another fumble, which he again recovered, Dantin led UT on a 15-play, 79-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 6-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Eric Page to cut the deficit to 41-12 with eight seconds remaining in the half.

The score would remain that way as both teams headed into the locker room after UT botched the extra-point attempt.

Opelt returned in the second half wearing a sling on his right arm on the sideline. The extend of the injury wasn't known after the game. Opelt was to undergo an MRI at 10 a.m. today.

WILDCAT DEBUT: Opelt's injury also led to a debut for another freshman.

Page lined up in the "Wildcat" formation for the first time this season midway through the second quarter, four plays after Opelt was injured.

UT coach Tim Beckman said last week he was toying with the notion of utilizing Page as a Wildcat QB but wanted to make sure he didn't overload the Springfield product with responsibilities in the offense.

Page rushed for seven yards on his first play behind center with 10 minutes left in the second half.

Two plays later, Page was in the Wildcat again, only this time he threw a backwards pass to Opelt, who then overthrew receiver Stephen Williams deep down the right sideline in the end zone.

MAKING HISTORY: UT fans earlier in the decade grew accustomed to watching former quarterback Bruce Gradkowski break records at the Glass Bowl.

But last night, a different signal-caller was making history.

With his third touchdown pass in the first half, Western Michigan senior quarterback Tim Hiller moved into a tie for third place with Tim Lester in Mid-American Conference history with 87 career TD passes.

In the process, Hiller also surpassed Gradkowski's career total of 85 TD passes, leaving him in fifth place in MAC annals.

PRISTINE PANTS: After debuting new white pants in their 37-30 comeback victory over Ball State last week, the Rockets were sporting the pants again last night with their midnight blue jerseys.

UT normally wears midnight blue pants at the Glass Bowl, but those haven't been seen since a 41-31 win at Florida International on Sept. 26.

No word if they were lost at baggage claim.

CAPTAINS NAMED: Freshman safety and Rogers graduate Isaiah Ballard, senior receiver Stephen Williams, senior safety Barry Church and senior defensive tackle Derrick Summers served as last night's team captains for UT.