Somewhere on his job resume Matt Campbell lists detail oriented among his strengths.
Or at least he should.
Campbell, two days after the University of Toledo’s championship drive hit a bump, lamented failure to execute details in a 31-24 loss to Ball State.
The coach mentioned details, or some form of the word, 10 times in his Monday news conference. Forget the double-digit number of penalties — more on that in a moment — or a key no-call by officials to end the game. Campbell pointed to "small, minute details" as his team’s undoing in an early showdown in the Mid-American Conference West division.
"The discipline of detail kind of caught up with us and really hurt us throughout the football game on both sides of the football," Campbell said. "It really prohibited us from winning that football game."
What Campbell finds confounding is his team’s string of miscues came seven days after Toledo whipped Central Michigan by 21 points in a road victory he described as complete as any in his one-plus seasons as head coach.
"I think we took a step backward in the step of consistency which we had really started to take some great strides in," Campbell said.
The first chance to restore momentum established in consecutive wins over Eastern Washington and Central Michigan comes Saturday in a homecoming matchup with Western Michigan. The Broncos, off to an 0-5 start under 32-year-old rookie head coach P.J. Fleck, fell 32-14 at home to Kent State in Saturday’s conference opener. Toledo, which will play five of its next six at the Glass Bowl, is a 21-point favorite.
"The final hurdle’s not about talent, it’s not about coaching," Campbell said. "It’s about the understanding and the availability that details are the most critical piece of the puzzle. When you can get there, and you can play with consistency of detail, you have a chance to be really special."
Campbell said struggles offensively in the first half were "detailed situations whether it be a quarterback, a receiver, or a running back." The initial play on the four series before halftime went like this: Holding penalty, sack, two-yard loss, one-yard gain. The result: Four punts. The Rockets (2-3, 1-1) went into halftime trailing 17-10, with a Junior Sylvestre fumble recovery amounting to their only touchdown.
Campbell said "the detail things" on defense came on first down. Too many times Ball State picked up chunks of yards to increase its odds of converting on second and third. Campbell said the defense must stiffen against the run even though Ball State gained a modest 3.6 yards per carry.
"It’s hard to play a lot of the football game on second and medium and second and short," he said.
Campbell smiled when asked for his reaction to the 10 penalties his team incurred for 97 yards. Four were for pass interference and one for defensive holding. Ball State, on the other hand, played a clean contest, drawing just one penalty for 10 yards.
Campbell did not specifically address the no-call pass interference many believe should have extended Toledo’s drive on its final offensive play. With the Rockets at midfield and more than a minute to go, a Cardinals defender appeared to make contact with receiver Alonzo Russell, prompting Campbell to throw his headset to the ground before he berated an official.
"I’m going to answer it this way, and probably very political," Campbell said. "We shouldn’t have let it come down to penalties. It shouldn’t come down to us even having this conversation. We had opportunities in the game to not let the game be detailed or talked about by penalties."
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