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HomeSportsUT
Published: Sunday, 9/19/2010

Rockets' defense does it again

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Take a seat, because you may not believe what you're about to read.

Fresh off its impressive showing in a 20-13 win at Ohio last week, UT's defense didn't surrender its first points until the Rockets had already built a 21-0 first-half advantage. UT ended up forcing six turnovers and piled up seven sacks.

"Those guys did an unbelievable job on defense," said UT quarterback Austin Dantin, who was 11-of-18 passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns in addition to one rushing touchdown. "They really were the anchor tonight. I give them all the credit in the world. They put us in great situations."

UT relented a bit down the stretch, but did enough to claim back-to-back Mid-American Conference road wins for the first time since 2005.

"I think a lot of people doubted that we could win two on the road," UT coach Tim Beckman said. "We're still young, we still make a lot of mistakes, but I'm proud of the way they played."

Senior cornerback Desmond Marrow, one of the cornerstones of the defense's turnaround, gave the Rockets a 31-7 lead with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter on a 15-yard interception return after he jumped a route on the right sideline. It was his second interception of the third quarter and the first two of his career.

"It was an amazing feeling," Marrow said, "especially since I'm always saying, 'M.P.O.D. - make plays or die,' so I'm definitely still living."

Sophomore linebacker Danny Molls started off the defense's impressive performance just five plays into the game. On third down, Western Michigan sophomore quarterback Alex Carder saw heavy pressure from Molls and junior defensive tackle Malcolm Riley. Molls managed to get to the quarterback first, and in the process of sacking him, Molls poked the ball loose.

UT (2-1, 2-0 MAC) recovered at the Broncos' 30-yard line, and Dantin took care of the rest. He scrambled for 21 yards on third and 11 to keep the drive alive, then hit sophomore wide receiver Eric Page for a nine-yard touchdown pass on a underneath crossing route to make it 7-0 at the 10:16 mark.

"We're starting to win football games with our defense," said Molls, who sealed the win with an interception late in the fourth quarter. "Turnovers are key. We preach it every day in practice."

Carder was responsible for all six turnovers - four interceptions and two fumbles - but finished 43-of-64 passing for 403 yards and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jordan White late in the second quarter.

"You can't ask a sophomore to go in there and throw 64 times," Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said. "That's hard. It's a lot on his shoulders."

The Rockets stretched their lead to 14-0 with 9:48 left in the first half on 73-yard touchdown pass from Dantin to Kenny Stafford - the longest TD of both players' careers. Dantin hit Stafford on a quick slant, Stafford evaded a tackler, and it was off to the races down the right sideline.

UT coach Tim Beckman opted to call for the onside kick, but Ryan Casano's dribbler rolled only nine yards - just one shy of the required kick length - giving the Broncos the ball at the opposing 29-yard line. But they couldn't cash in. Riley came up with a huge sack on third down, and WMU was forced to punt.

UT then marched own the field on Page's 50-yard reception on a bubble screen and Stafford's 11-yard catch while falling out of bounds.

Dantin's two-yard plunge made it 21-0 with 2:06 left in the half.

After the Broncos scored 17 unanswered points over an 11-minute stretch in the second half, Page ended all doubts by returning the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to paydirt.

JOHNSON TO HOSPITAL: UT senior defensive end Alex Johnson was taken to a hospital with dehydration, an eye injury, and a possible concussion after being injured in the fourth quarter, Beckman said.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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