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Published: Tuesday, 10/20/2009

Rockets may look to Pettee at QB

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
QB Alex Pettee will get the start against Temple if Aaron Opelt and Austin Dantin are held out with injuries.
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO1599743.GIF> <b><font color=red>LISTEN:</b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/mpg/TO691411019.MP3" target="_blank "><b> Toledo news conference:</b></a> Oct. 19, 2009 QB Alex Pettee will get the start against Temple if Aaron Opelt and Austin Dantin are held out with injuries. <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO1599743.GIF> <b><font color=red>LISTEN:</b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/mpg/TO691411019.MP3" target="_blank "><b> Toledo news conference:</b></a> Oct. 19, 2009
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A third-string quarterback helped lead the University of Toledo to a fourth quarter comeback last weekend, and he may be called on again Saturday.

Junior Alex Pettee is waiting in the wings with senior quarterback Aaron Opelt still recovering from a right (throwing) shoulder bruise suffered two weeks ago against Western Michigan and freshman quarterback Austin Dantin sidelined with a high right ankle sprain.

Opelt said he "got quite a few throws in" yesterday on the team's off day and is listed as probable to play this week against Temple.

"[Yesterday] wasn't the first time I've thrown, but it's the first time I've successfully thrown [since the injury occurred]," Opelt said. "[Yesterday] was the first day it actually felt pretty good."

Asked if he was still experiencing pain in his shoulder, Opelt didn't say.

"We're good to go," Opelt said. "If I have to throw, I can throw."

UT coach Tim Beckman said the team is still taking a "day-by-day" approach to Opelt's injury and will get a better feel for his playing status as the week progresses.

As was the case last week, Opelt will more than likely have to demonstrate he is ready to play by tomorrow's practice if he's going to see time against the Owls.

"He probably could have played a little bit for us on Saturday night, but that wasn't the best thing we could do for the Rockets or for Aaron Opelt," Beckman said. "We'll see how Aaron progresses each and every day, but he's getting better. We see him as being able to play this Saturday."

Yet Beckman said the Rockets must be careful with Opelt's injury so that a minor injury doesn't turn into something significant.

"Of course you have to be cautious to make sure that the young man is physically able to play in the game," Beckman said. "But I know Aaron wants to play, and keeping him out is the hardest thing that we have to do because Aaron's a very competitive person and he wants to make sure that this team is successful."

As for Dantin, who was hurt in the fourth quarter against the Huskies last weekend, UT coach Tim Beckman said he is "doubtful" to play this week.

Dantin completed 17 of 24 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown before exiting. He also threw an interception and fumbled four times, losing two of them.

"The thing that really amazed all of us was how he came in and led the offense as a true freshman with confidence," senior left guard Jared DeWalt said. "He made a lot of plays out there on the field and did an unbelievable job. All in all, he really opened up some eyes on offense."

Now it's up to Pettee, a junior college transfer before the 2008 season from Pierce (Calif.) Community College, to turn some heads if neither Opelt nor Dantin can play against Temple.

Pettee took over for Dantin with 10:56 remaining against Northern Illinois on what proved to be the game-winning scoring drive. He finished 2-of-2 passing for 28 yards, including a 21-yard toss to freshman receiver and Springfield graduate Eric Page that set-up senior running back DaJuane Collins' four-yard TD run three plays later that made it 20-19.

If called on again Saturday, Pettee said he'd be ready.

"I played in the spring with pretty much the same guys, so it's just a matter of rekindling it and getting it going again," Pettee said.

CHURCH HONORED: Senior safety Barry Church was named the Mid-American West Division special teams player of the week after blocking two kicks against Northern Illinois, including the potential game-winning field goal with 37 seconds left.

Church also was named defensive back of the week by College Football Performance Awards after he had 12 tackles against NIU, the third time this season he's finished a game with 10 or more tackles.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com.



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