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Matt Campbell theorizes that the biggest strides made by a college football team happen now, between the first and second weeks, because players should be accustomed to the speed and the emotion of a game.
The area on defense in which the University of Toledo coach hopes to see the most growth following the season-opener at Arizona is no surprise to anyone who watched the Rockets grasp at air all night. In reviewing the film, Campbell counted anywhere from 180 to 200 yards surrendered after his defense missed a tackle. That's a big ole chunk of the 624 yards accrued by the Wildcats in their 24-17 overtime win.
"It's one of the things we stress more than anything," Campbell said Monday.
Campbell was actually pleased with most areas of the unit. He praised his young cornerbacks for covering well and conceding small and medium chunks of yards rather than debilitating receptions. He applauded the two turnovers created, and the bend-but-don't-break attitude that led to a reasonable number of points allowed relative to the enormous number of yards given up.
He said his players executed the game plan. But tackling, well, that area better tighten up before Saturday at Wyoming.
Safeties were the main culprit, said Campbell, whose assertion was echoed by one of them. Senior Jermaine Robinson, one of the most reliable members of the unit and a team captain, whiffed a number of times. His failure to bring down running back Ka'Deem Carey in the open field led to a 73-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
"I put that on myself to work harder this week and to eliminate those few missed tackles," Robinson said. "Those tackles could have changed the game."
Toledo does not keep a record for yards allowed, but Arizona's 623 are the most in a while.
Wyoming totaled 345 yards in a 37-17 loss Saturday at No. 15 Texas. Quarterback Brett Smith, the reigning freshman of the year in the Mountain West Conference, threw for 276 yards, with 173 of them and both of his touchdown passes going to 5-foot-10 junior Robert Herron. The Cowboys, who won eight games in 2011 and lost to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl, beat Toledo two years ago at the Glass Bowl.
"It's all going to come back to keep the ball in front of us, tackling, and playing sound defense," Robinson said.
HAYES COMING: Campbell confirmed a report from The Blade stating former Whitmer standout and Ohio State defensive lineman Kenny Hayes is enrolled at Toledo and plans to play football.
Toledo is awaiting the go-ahead from the NCAA Clearinghouse before officially welcoming Hayes, a former four-star recruit whom Rivals considered the nation's 68th best prospect in 2010. Hayes (6-5, 285 pounds) must sit out this season before becoming eligible next fall. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Hayes redshirted as a freshman last season with the Buckeyes following an all-state senior season at Whitmer. He left the team last month. "He's a gifted football player and certainly had a great high school career," Campbell said. "At the end of the day, it will all be predicated on Kenny and what his adjustment is coming to the University of Toledo and fitting into our football team."
SHORT YARDS: Campbell said quarterback Terrance Owens will start Saturday "if all things are equal" during the week between he and Austin Dantin. Owens did not win the right to start the Arizona game last week, but will get the nod because it is his turn after Dantin won a coin flip to start at Arizona. Dantin is expected to enter the game early, just as Owens did in the third series Saturday. ... Punter Vince Penza was named Mid-American Conference West division special teams player of the week. Penza averaged 44.9 yards per punt, and six of his eight punts landed inside Arizona's 20. ... Receiver James Green (knee) is expected to make his season debut Saturday. Green, a junior, caught nine passes in each of the past two seasons.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.