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Published: Tuesday, 9/25/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Despite big numbers, Molls seeks to improve

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
University of Toledo player Dan Molls, 32, hits Coastal Carolina player Tyrell Blanks, 16, causing an incomplete pass during the first quarter at the Glass Bowl, Saturday, September 22, 2012. University of Toledo player Dan Molls, 32, hits Coastal Carolina player Tyrell Blanks, 16, causing an incomplete pass during the first quarter at the Glass Bowl, Saturday, September 22, 2012.
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Dan Molls heard an assortment of statistics, some he was proud of and others he would prefer to have extracted from his memory bank. The nation's second-leading tackler, Molls did not bask in individual glory Monday, not amid continued struggles by the University of Toledo defense, and not on a week that evokes traumatizing memories.

As the Rockets gear up for a key conference tilt at Western Michigan, Molls was reminded of last year's defense-is-optional affair in which the offenses combined for 1,352 yards, 69 first downs, and all but seven of the 129 points scored.

"I remember the fact we won the game," said Molls, who scored on a fumble recovery. "But the very next thing that comes to mind is we let up 60 points."

Not to quibble, but the final tally was 63 -- three fewer than Toledo totaled in a game that ended mercifully after four hours and 16 minutes. WMU averaged 7.7 yards per play, with receiver Jordan White (238 yards on 16 catches) and quarterback Alex Carder (548 yards and seven touchdowns) posting monster games. Carder is back and has developed a bond with true freshman Jaime Wilson, whose 37 catches are second most in the nation.

"We have to put our offense in more comfortable situations and make it easier for our team to win football games," Molls said.

Molls, a senior linebacker who missed six games in 2011 to a leg injury, has led the team in tackles in every game -- a feat that inspires coach Matt Campbell to refer to him as "the great consistent" on defense. His 49 stops trail the national lead by two, and his 12.2 tackles per game are fifth. Molls' first sack of the year forced a third-quarter punt at midfield in Saturday's 38-28 win over Coastal Carolina.

"It's my job to make tackles," he said. "It's not something I look at. When we talk about statistics, the one statistic that sticks out is we're ranked 119th in the country in pass defense, and I have a big part in that."

Three quarterbacks have notched at least 330 passing yards against the Rockets, and the next one they'll see is a fair bet to fall in line if healthy. Carder on Monday was expected to have an X-ray on his right (throwing hand) that he smashed on a helmet in the third quarter of Saturday's win over Connecticut. In his absence, junior backup Tyler Van Tubbergen completed 3-of-6 passes for 16 yards.

In attempting to minimize big plays, the Rockets are basically conceding short slant and curl patterns. Campbell hopes to see that change, but not before he feels his secondary is comfortable carrying out the new system instituted by coordinator Tom Matukewicz.

"I think a lot of it is we just have a little bit of hesitation still," Molls said. "That just comes with more experience with this new scheme."

GLENVILLE CONNECTION: Here's an interesting footnote to last Saturday's game: Six years after Terrance Owens and Cordale Scott hooked up for Owens' first high school touchdown pass, the Glenville graduates collaborated for another milestone. This time it was Scott catching his first college touchdown pass. Scott, a fifth-year senior, added a second TD catch to seal the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Cordale Scott, Jr., 3, was on hand to see the milestone.

"He said, 'Dad, did you score a touchdown?' " Scott said. "He knows what's going on."

INJURIES: Running back David Fluellen (head) and linebacker Robert Bell (ankle) participated in Sunday's practice, Campbell said, and are day-to-day.

Owens (ankle) said he will play, and Campbell anticipates the return of cornerback Byron Best, who left the Bowling Green game with a knee injury.

Defensive tackle Danny Farr (knee) is expected to miss his third straight game.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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