Arizona head coach Mike Stoops expects to have close to 100 friends and family in the Toledo stands on Friday.
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Among other things, Youngstown is best known as the home of the Stoops family and the Golden Cardinal Bocce Social, a bocce tournament and fund-raiser for Cardinal Mooney High School that takes place every summer at the Mahoning Valley Restaurant.
Knowing he would be standing across the field from Mike Stoops in the fall, University of Toledo senior cornerback Desmond Marrow stopped by the tournament last June to share a few words with the Arizona coach.
"They were playing bocce and I was just standing there watching," Marrow recalled. "Then he's like, 'What's up, Dez?' Then I asked him sarcastically, 'You know we play you this year?' And he says, 'I'll be there.' And that was the end of it."
Although their conversation was brief, Marrow was already very familiar with Stoops and his brothers: Bob, the head coach at Oklahoma; Mark, the defensive coordinator at Florida State; and Ron Stoops, the safeties coach at Youngstown State.
Marrow learned all about the Stoops family while attending Mooney, which is where all the Stoops brothers also graduated.
"The Stoops brothers, they're all over Mooney," Marrow said. "They have plaques everywhere, and you see their picture in every hallway."
Although the Golden Cardinal Bocce Social serves as the Stoops family's unofficial homecoming every summer, Mike Stoops will make another trip to the Buckeye State when Arizona opens its season against the Rockets at the Glass Bowl on Friday night.
Stoops said Tuesday he expects to have close to 100 friends and family in the stands rooting for him and his team.
"It'll just be nice to get back and have an opportunity to see my family," Stoops said. "I don't get many opportunities to come back to Ohio, but obviously I'm more worried about starting the season than all that other stuff. I don't get too caught up in that. My focus is on Toledo and what we need to do to win."
The Wildcats, which finished 8-5 last season and played in the Holiday Bowl, will be bringing plenty of firepower offensively with them to Toledo. They return eight starters on that side of the ball, including junior quarterback Nick Foles. The Michigan State transfer garnered All-Pac-10 honorable mention in 2009 after he threw for 2,486 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Depth at running back may be Arizona's greatest strength, with a stable of senior Nic Grigsby (567 yards, 7.2 yard per carry in '09), junior Keola Antolin (637 yards, 5.6 ypc), and sophomore Greg Nwoko (273 yards, 3.6 ypc).
The defense, which returns just four starters, is the unit that is causing Stoops the most trepidation.
"We have to get out and play and gain some game experience," Stoops said. "I'll have a better judgment for where we're at defensively after we perform. There's some unknowns there, but I think we're starting to come together."
TICKET UPDATE: About 5,000 tickets remain for the game against Arizona, UT announced Tuesday, and the allotment of 4,500 Ultimate Fan Plan season tickets are sold out. Other season ticket packages remain available.
A total of about 10,500 season tickets have been sold for this season, which far surpassed last year's total of 7,429 and is very close to the all-time season ticket mark of 10,851 set in 2004.
Additionally, Friday will mark the debut of "Rocket Fan Fest." It will commence 2 1/2 hours before every home game this season on the north side of the Glass Bowl and involve activities for children, such as inflatables and face painting.
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