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Published: Friday, 9/23/2011

UT ready to play in dome at Syracuse

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin picks up first down during the first quarter of game against Boise State at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Friday, September 16, 2011. Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin picks up first down during the first quarter of game against Boise State at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Friday, September 16, 2011.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It'll be hot. It'll be muggy. It'll be loud.

No, the University of Toledo football program isn't headed down south to play against a Southeastern Conference opponent this weekend. The Rockets depart this afternoon for tomorrow's matchup with Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.

The experience of playing in a dome won't be new for most of the Rockets after taking part in last year's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit, but the Carrier Dome has its own set of quirks.

"I heard it's a little bit more humid," UT coach Tim Beckman said. "They don't run the air conditioner all the time. That's what I've heard. I don't know, just what I've heard."

In fact, the Carrier Dome does not have air conditioning, despite carrying the namesake of one of the world's largest manufacturers of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.

"It's definitely an environment that [Syracuse is] used to, because they've practiced in it," Beckman said, "so we'll have one of our practices in the indoor [practice facility at the Fetterman Training Center]."

Beckman announced after practice yesterday that quarterback Austin Dantin will start in the Carrier Dome. Dantin will play the first two series, then Terrance Owens will get his turn.

They will have to deal with the challenging conditions.

Junior safety Jermaine Robinson is one of the few Rockets who have visited the Carrier Dome, which seats 49,250 fans for football games and also is home to the Syracuse basketball and lacrosse teams. Robinson and his prep school teammates attended the Orange's game against Penn State in 2008.

"It's hot in there. We had our travel suits on, and we had to take them off because we were sweating so much," Robinson said. "[And] of course it's loud because everything is so close. The visitor benches, the fans can basically reach out and touch you."

None of the Rockets seemed too concerned, however, with the difficult road conditions. They weren't deterred last year either by facing an opponent from a bigger conference on its home field.

UT defeated Purdue 31-20 last season, and the similarities between that game and tomorrow's matchup aren't lost on Beckman or his players.

"We've talked about that [Purdue win] a bunch of times," Beckman said. "When we went down to Ohio State, we talked about going into Purdue. We used that same exact schedule, and we'll use it again [tomorrow] because it's a 12 o'clock kickoff, just like it was for us at Purdue.

"That Purdue game was probably our best game that we've had, all-around, since I've been here. I think that's something these players understand, that they've won on the road and been successful on the road, and we have to get back to those winning ways on the road if we're going to win a championship."

UT is also ready to get back to its winning ways against big-time opponents. The Rockets have knocked off a BCS team in the regular season for five years running, so after losses to Ohio State and Boise State in their last two games, tomorrow's game presents the last opportunity to extend that streak.

"Third time's always the charm, right?" UT senior running back Adonis Thomas asked. "This is our third opportunity to get that win. If we play the game we're supposed to play, and once you calm down and settle in and really get into the swing of things, we really have a chance to win."

Syracuse, which is coming off a 38-17 loss at Southern California last weekend, is awaiting Toledo's best shot.

"They've had a lot of good success beating BCS programs," Orange defensive coordinator Scott Shafer said on a Syracuse radio station earlier this week.

"You know, being from Ohio myself, I know what type of kids they have in that program. Those kids have a hard edge.," Shafer said.

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.



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