YPSILANTI, Mich. — When the University of Toledo’s receivers mingle before games, the conversation often centers on an individual statistic in which they hope to lead the team.
Catches? No. Yards? Huh-uh. Touchdowns? Nope.
“We like to pride ourselves on knockdowns,” Bernard Reedy said.
A desire to block downfield has been evident all season and especially Saturday when the receiving corps sprung several huge gains in a 52-47 win at Eastern Michigan.
Reedy took advantage of blocks downfield on both of his third quarter touchdown catches as well as on his 89-yard kickoff return. Cordale Scott’s block on the edge enabled Reedy to turn a short reception into a 65-yard score.
Not to be outdone, freshman Alonzo Russell — arguably the best blocker among the group — sealed off the final defender on Reedy’s 59-yard TD.
“If you go back to the last two or three years and why we’ve had so many explosive plays, it’s because of downfield blocking,” coach Matt Campbell said.
The mandate enforced by offensive coordinator Jason Candle is simple. If receivers don’t block, they don’t play. Reedy said a “big ole jacket” is distributed every week to the player who records the most knockdowns. That prize, which is accompanied by the title of “Hitman,” typically goes to a lineman, though an exception could be made this week.
“It’s going to be hard to decide who gets it,” James Green said.
Green, who caught two passes for 24 yards, made his biggest contribution when he threw a block in the first quarter that launched David Fluellen’s 53-yard touchdown. Asked to appraise his chances of earning the jacket, Green didn’t flinch.
“I should be a top nominee,” Green said.
THREE IN A ROW: Fluellen, who notched his third straight game of at least 100 yards, is averaging 168.3 yards over that span. The junior finished with 188 yards and touchdowns of 53 and 6 yards Saturday, upping his season total in those categories to 792 and nine. He eclipsed 100 yards on just his eighth carry.
SHORT YARDS: Running back Cassius McDowell was on crutches after the game. Campbell said he doesn’t think the injury is serious but that he will know more this week. ... Byron Best and true freshman Juwan Haynes started at cornerback over mainstays Chris Dukes and Cheatham Norrils. ... Danny Molls’ 18 tackles were one shy of his career-high. ... Jayrone Elliott and Colby Kratch collaborated for Toledo’s only sack. ... The Rockets committed 10 penalties for 97 yards, including three personal fouls. Campbell seemed to disagree with at least two of them. ... Jeremiah Detmer made a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and is now 13 of 18.