MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Coach Matt Campbell said in the preseason he sensed University of Toledo’s linebackers for the first time in several years could be a violent group.
There is evidence Campbell knows of which he speaks.
Linebackers continued their case as the most surprising unit on the team with three sacks and four turnovers Saturday in Toledo’s 38-17 win at Central Michigan.
"Really, their production all year has been fantastic," Campbell said. "When they come and hit, they’ll bring it. I think those guys have done a great job this season."
The four takeaways matched Toledo’s total entering the day.
Middle linebacker Chase Murdock blitzed up the middle for two sacks, forcing a fumble on one of them. He also intercepted a pass on the opening drive of the game.
Weakside linebacker Junior Sylvestre blitzed from the edge to induce a fumble of quarterback Cooper Rush that Sylvestre recovered and returned 22 yards for a first-quarter touchdown. Sylvestre recovered a second fumble later after a Murdock sack.
"All the clean hits we had on the quarterback were shoulder hits and we tried to make them violent," said Sylvestre, whose 12 tackles tied Murdock for most on the team.
The other starting linebacker, Trent Voss, forced a fumble that went back to CMU after a handful of Rockets failed to corral the loose ball. Voss had six tackles.
Jayrone Elliott, whose Leo position requires him to often line up at linebacker level, finished with a career-high 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Ray Bush, who replaced Murdock for a second-half series, joined the linebacker excitement with an interception.
Defensive coordinator Tom Matukewicz seems to be dialing up more linebacker blitzes than a year ago, a philosophy shift Campbell attributes to improved faith in the team’s defensive backs.
"A lot of credit there goes to our secondary," he said. "I think we feel more comfortable doing that because we’re better in the secondary than we’ve been. Our athleticism as a whole gives us the opportunity to take some risks and put some pressure on the quarterback."
Toledo turned three of its four turnovers into touchdowns.
REEDY: Bernard Reedy now ranks fifth all-time at Toledo with 2,192 receiving yards. Reedy, who had eight catches for 96 yards, passed Mel Long (2,188) and Don Fair (2,191). Steve Odom (2003-06) ranks No. 4 on the list with 2,631 yards.
Reedy returned a kickoff 50 yards to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.
HADEN OUT: Safety Jordan Haden missed his fourth game in a row with a fractured collarbone. Campbell earlier in the week considered Haden "50-50" to make his season debut. Another defensive back, cornerback Juwan Haynes, has returned from a minor surgery but did not play. Campbell said Haynes, a sophomore who started one game last year, is "trying to find his niche."
DETMER: Jeremiah Detmer improved to 8 of 9 on field goals with a 35-yarder after halftime. Detmer last week tied the program mark for consecutive makes with 23 before missing from 35 yards with a chance to own the streak outright.
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