After weeks of waiting, Aaron Opelt hopes Saturday will mark his return to the football field for the University of Toledo.
The senior quarterback has been sidelined since the second quarter against Western Michigan on Oct. 10 with a bruised right (throwing) shoulder.
And although he said he's still experiencing some pain when he throws, Opelt is optimistic that he'll be back behind center against Miami (Ohio) this weekend.
"The shoulder, it's coming back," Opelt said yesterday. "It's starting to feel good. It's starting to feel promising, and I'm going to do everything I can to get back this week. This is what the doctors and I are really shooting for. It's very realistic I could play this week."
Opelt said he threw "a little bit" Sunday night at practice and will continue to test his shoulder this week in team workouts.
"I mean, my strength's there. It feels good all the time," Opelt said. "There's just that one spot where it catches, and we were kind of at a stand-still [for a while], but I think we've finally gotten past that. It's starting to feel a lot better and starting to let me go."
Opelt also reiterated the initial diagnosis of his shoulder that it was in fact a bruise, and not a separation.
"It's just one of those nagging bruises in the shoulder," Opelt said. "We're working it out with ultrasounds and stimulation, and it's getting there."
UT coach Tim Beckman said the Rockets are still preparing as if junior third-stringer Alex Pettee will be the starter at quarterback against Miami, with Opelt and freshman backup Austin Dantin (ankle) not yet cleared to play.
"It's a daily thing for both of them," Beckman said. "I can't give a guess [on their playing status]. We hope both of them are ready. But right now I would say if we were playing the game tomorrow, both of them would not play."
Starting in place of Opelt and Dantin in Saturday's 40-24 loss to Temple at the Glass Bowl, Pettee completed 29 of 47 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions and lost one fumble.
It was obviously a very different outcome for the junior college transfer from Pierce (Calif.) Community College, who was making his first career start a week after guiding a game-winning scoring drive against Northern Illinois.
Pettee was 2-of-2 passing for 28 yards in relief of Dantin after he went down with a high right ankle sprain in the fourth quarter against the Huskies.
Now, Pettee has to regroup with the possibility he might be behind center again this week.
"It was definitely a swing of emotions, but you have to move on," Pettee said of the Temple loss. "There were some good things you can build on from the last game from a personal standpoint, but I want to be able to go out there again and get a win.
"I'm going to practice as hard as I can this entire week and be ready to play. I'm preparing myself to be the starter."
FLU SHOTS: Several UT players and coaches received flu vaccinations yesterday to combat the ongoing pandemic with the illness.
"We got some of that nasal stuff here just a little bit ago," Beckman joked yesterday. "I didn't make it mandatory because that's not my right to make it mandatory. I don't know the exact numbers [of how many players went], but I'd say a little more than half the team."
Almost every team across the nation has been afflicted to some degree with the flu this season, and the Rockets are no different.
Opelt revealed he was stricken with the flu last week while rehabbing his shoulder and was kept away from the rest of the players.
"I don't think it was [swine flu]," Opelt joked. "I'm alive. I'm doing all right."
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