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Despite no longer controlling its own destiny, the University of Toledo football team still has plenty to prove in its final three regular-season games, starting Tuesday night in a nationally televised matchup with Western Michigan at the Glass Bowl.
The Rockets ran out of time in a 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois last Tuesday at the Glass Bowl, and the Huskies can claim the Mid-American Conference West Division for the second year in a row as long as they win out.
That leaves UT and Western Michigan fighting for second place in the West, which could be an important place to be come December when bowl bids are awarded. The MAC is only guaranteed three spots, with the first two awarded to the West and East champions.
The more pressing issue for the Rockets right now, though, is getting their defense back on track after the Huskies shredded them for the second straight year.
“It hurts, being that our defense gave up 63 points and our offense scored 60 and we still lose,” UT senior defensive lineman Malcolm Riley said. “It’s heart-breaking. It hurts. But we have to get past it and move on to Western Michigan.”
In their last 11 conference victories, Toledo has surrendered just 19 points per game. In its last two losses — both to NIU — UT has been torched for a combined 128 points.
“I have no doubt that our defense will rebound and I have no doubt that they’re going to play great [Tuesday],” UT junior quarterback Austin Dantin said.
Making that rebounding process a little more difficult is the top-rated passing attack in the MAC.
Western Michigan leads the conference with 292.4 yards through the air per game, with the vast majority of those thrown by junior quarterback Alex Carder.
Carder’s favorite target is sixth-year senior wide receiver Jordan White, who leads the nation with 95 receptions this season.
“It really starts off the field,” White said. “That’s always something you can count on — me and him being together and having that communication and being able to translate that to the field.”
The Broncos’ coaching staff has devised numerous ways to utilize White and get him the ball, so shutting him down is probably out of the question.
“He hasn’t been stopped. You have to control him,” UT coach Tim Beckman said. “That’s probably the most important thing to be able to do.”
HONOR ROLL: Three players were honored Monday for their efforts in the Rockets’ loss to Northern Illinois last week.
Junior Eric Page was named national wide receiver of the week by College Football Performance Awards after tying a Mid-American Conference record with five touchdown receptions against the Huskies.
Junior middle linebacker Danny Molls registered 17 tackles against Northern Illinois and was named MAC West defensive player of the week.
Dantin was one of eight quarterbacks in the nation named Manning Award stars of the week after completing 20 of 33 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns in the loss to the Huskies.
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.