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Playing on a defense that has been depleted by injuries, Ben Pike has become the poster child for backups at the University of Toledo making the most of their newfound opportunity.
Entering the 2011 season, the sophomore was listed No. 4 on the depth chart at defensive end, with little to no shot at much playing time.
Fast forward to last night, and Pike entered the Rockets' homecoming game against defending Mid-American Conference champion Miami with a team-high four sacks.
"When you get that opportunity, you just absolutely want to do your best and show what you can do," Pike said earlier this week. "I'm just thankful that I've gotten this opportunity and been able to play well."
Pike's increased playing time came partially as a result of junior defensive end and Perrysburg graduate T.J. Fatinikun suffering a season-ending dislocated elbow injury against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 8.
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"You never like to see a teammates like T.J. go down, especially with him being the great player he is and an All-MAC guy, but guys have to step up," Pike said.
"I think Jayrone Elliott, Christian Smith, and myself have done a pretty good job with that."
Pike teamed with Elliott in the second quarter last night to strip Miami quarterback Zac Dysert, and junior linebacker Robert Bell scooped up the loose ball and returned it 55 yards the other way for a touchdown to give Toledo a 35-7 advantage.
Through seven games, Pike has registered seven tackles this season.
ROCKET RETURNS: Three UT starters who were questionable last night due to injuries all played in the first half.
Junior middle linebacker Danny Molls and junior strong safety Jermaine Robinson both started on defense, while senior running back Adonis Thomas entered the game late in the first quarter.
Molls has been out since suffering a stress fracture in his lower left leg in practice before the Ohio State game Sept. 10. Robinson sat out last week's game at Bowling Green after suffering a hand injury the week before against Eastern Michigan and undergoing surgery.
It had been four weeks since Thomas last put on the pads and stepped onto the playing field. He suffered a broken left forearm Sept. 24 at Syracuse and underwent surgery to have a plate and screws inserted into his arm to stabilize the fracture.
Thomas, who was originally expected to miss four-to-six weeks, said earlier in the week that he was "85 percent" sure he'd play against the RedHawks and was very anxious to get back on the field.
He rushed for 71 yards on four carries in the first half, including a 67-yard run on his first carry.
GAME CAPTAINS: Serving as team captains for UT were senior cornerbacks Taikwon Paige and Desmond Marrow, senior running back Morgan Williams, and sophomore long snapper Matt Wall.
The Rockets name their captains on a game-by-game basis to reward hard work and dedication in the previous week of practice.