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Published: Tuesday, 10/26/2010

UT game away from goal of finishing season in bowl

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The list has remained tacked to the wall inside the team meeting room at the Larimer Athletic Complex since the day Tim Beckman arrived at the University of Toledo in December, 2008.

And at the very top of that agenda for the Rockets' program, even above winning a Mid-American Conference championship, is earning a bid to play in a bowl game.

It's been five years since the Rockets' last bowl game – a 45-13 win over Texas-El Paso in the 2005 GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. – but they'll have a chance to break that streak with a victory at Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

At 5-3, UT needs one more win to gain bowl eligibility and would be virtually assured a spot in one of college football's 35 bowl games this season.

“Getting to a bowl game would be huge for this program,” UT sophomore quarterback Austin Dantin said Monday. “That's kind of [a step in] re-establishing the tradition of Toledo. Toledo's been known as the winningest program in the MAC, and that's really getting [to the heart] of everything that we've been working toward since January.”

Beckman stopped short of placing too much emphasis on the fact that the Rockets can become bowl eligible with a win over the Eagles, but admitted making it to a bowl game is a very important building block for the program.

“I'm sure that it goes through an 18 to 21-year-old's mind, and we have talked about a goal of ours … is to get to a bowl game,” Beckman said. “But the one that's right below it is to win a MAC championship, so to win a MAC championship, we have to beat Eastern Michigan. So that's the most important thing that's on our schedule right now.”

MARROW PAPERWORK: Senior cornerback Desmond Marrow sent out paperwork to the NCAA Monday to apply for a sixth year of eligibility.

Marrow sat out the 2007 season and nearly all of last season with injuries, so there's a very good chance he'll be awarded a sixth year should he choose to take it.

Marrow, who leads the Rockets with five pass breakups and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions this season, said the NCAA would rule on his appeal in 2-3 weeks.

“There's good and bad to it,” Marrow said of possibly spending a sixth year at UT. “I kind of have to sit down with my family and talk about it, because I could come back and work on a Master's degree. I'm sure my parents would like that and so would I.”

Marrow's ultimate goal is to play at the next level, but he is open to the idea of postponing that for one more year of college.

“I would love to come back and play another year, especially if we win the MAC championship. That would be pretty cool,” he said. “But I'll have to see where I'm projected [in the NFL draft] and what would happen with that.”

JOHNSON RETURNS: Senior defensive end Alex Johnson returned to the field last weekend against Ball State after missing the last four games with a fractured eye socket suffered Sept. 18 at Western Michigan.

Monday, Johnson revealed the exact nature of his gruesome injury and how it happened.

“Basically the bottom of my eye socket where it holds up my eye got blown out, because I got a finger in the eye,” he said.

Johnson underwent surgery a few days later to have a titanium plate placed under his eye, and doctors originally told him he would likely miss the remainder of the season. But Johnson said that wasn't an option for him.

“I told them no way,” he said. “It's my senior year and I have to play.”

Johnson said he still suffers from double vision when he looks up, which doctors told him may not ever go away. He also wears a special facemask and visor now to prevent a reoccurrence of the injury. “I'm getting pretty used to injuries now, so I just go,” Johnson said.

BALLARD HONORED: UT junior safety and Rogers graduate Isaiah Ballard was named MAC West Division special teams player of the week. Ballard returned three kicks for 103 yards against Ball State, including a 56-yard return to start the second half that led to UT's go-ahead touchdown.

Contact Zach Silka at:zsilka@theblade.comor 419-724-6084.



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