Rockets scale back scheme in effort to fix defense

10/16/2012
BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
campbell-rockets

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky

When a de­fense is blud­geoned for 624 yards, gives up more points in one quar­ter than its win­less op­po­nent scored in any pre­vi­ous game, and ap­proaches tack­ling with as much en­thu­si­asm as a kid pick­ing at a plate of cab­bage, the ob­vi­ous cry is for change.

But try­ing some­thing new might have been the prob­lem Satur­day, says Univer­sity of Toledo coach Matt Camp­bell, who at­trib­utes a dys­func­tional ef­fort against Eastern Mich­i­gan to a scheme that grew in com­plex­ity too fast for his play­ers to com­pre­hend.

When the Rock­ets are at their best, they are ba­sic, maybe even pre­dict­able, but yet knowl­edge­able of their as­sign­ments. The plan last week to in­cor­po­rate a few bells and whis­tles pro­duced noth­ing but dis­ar­ray in a 52-47 cliff­hang­ing win.

In ex­plain­ing how his de­fense made the na­tion’s 120th ranked of­fense look like the Ore­gon Ducks, Camp­bell on Mon­day told a story of his first sea­son as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Toledo. His call sheet con­sisted of about four plays, and when he or­dered up some­thing out of the or­di­nary, bad things fol­lowed.

In the ad­o­les­cent stages of the new de­fen­sive scheme un­der co­or­di­na­tor Tom Matuke­wicz, the saf­est route to suc­cess seems to be sim­plic­ity, a no­tion Camp­bell and his staff fig­ure to re-adopt this week at home against No. 21 Cin­cin­nati.

"Some of those big plays came from some things that maybe we hadn’t done enough of to be good at," Camp­bell said. "It’s cer­tainly a sit­u­a­tion we all learned a lot from and it’s some­thing we’ll grow from."

Camp­bell, on be­half of his as­sis­tants, shoul­dered blame for not "put­ting our kids in the best po­si­tion to be suc­cess­ful." He es­ti­mates 175 plays were run in the game, and that the Rock­ets ex­e­cuted well on all but maybe 25. A unit that has been suf­fi­cient stop­ping the run gave up 283 yards and four touch­downs to fourth-string back Bron­son Hill, and al­lowed Tyler Benz to throw for 301 yards. Hill had touch­down runs of 47, 58, and 70 yards as part of a 27-point third quar­ter when the of­fenses en­gaged in a game of ping-pong. The Eagles mus­tered nine gains of 20 yards or more and five of 40 or more. Their 624 to­tal yards matched Ari­zona’s out­put in the opener against Toledo.

Tackle Eli­jah Jones cited a rash of "gray area," in which play­ers were of­ten con­fused of their roles.

"When we’re in the right spots and we tackle, I feel like no­body can beat us," Jones said. "We are so ef­fec­tive when we’re play­ing fun­da­men­tal, sound foot­ball, and ev­ery­body’s tack­ling."

Cin­cin­nati (5-0) scored 101 points the past two weeks against Ford­ham and Miami (Ohio) and av­er­ages 37. Asked if the game will be a shoot­out, say some­thing along the lines of 75-65, Camp­bell re­sponded, "No, it’s not." The Bearcats will be a dif­fi­cult op­po­nent, and a sim­ple plan seems to be the best way to at­tack them.

"As a de­fense, we just re­al­ize this is a les­son," cor­ner­back By­ron Best said. "The only thing we can do is just flush what hap­pened last Satur­day and get pre­pared for the next game."

SHORT YARDS: Ber­nard Reedy was named Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence West di­vi­sion spe­cial teams player of the week for the sec­ond week in a row af­ter re­turn­ing a kick­off 89 yards for a touch­down. Toledo has col­lected an in­di­vid­ual award from the con­fer­ence in six of seven weeks, with Reedy be­ing the only re­peat win­ner. ... Run­ning back Cas­sius McDow­ell (leg) is prob­a­ble, as is Justin Olack (arm). ... Camp­bell said true fresh­man Juwan Haynes got the start­ing nod at cor­ner­back Satur­day over Cheatham Nor­rils af­ter prac­tic­ing well dur­ing the week. ... Toledo re­ceived two votes in the coaches poll, and Camp­bell of­fered a "no com­ment" when asked if one of them was his.

Con­tact Ryan Au­tullo at:

rau­tullo@the­blade.com,

419-724-6160 or on

Twit­ter @Au­tul­loBlade.