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Published: Thursday, 11/21/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

ROCKETS NOTEBOOK

Rockets’ seniors leave winning legacy behind

BY RYAN ATULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
UT wide receiver Alonzo Russell easily scores a touchdown against  Northern Northern Illinois in Wednesday night's game. UT wide receiver Alonzo Russell easily scores a touchdown against Northern Northern Illinois in Wednesday night's game.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

A class that contributed greatly to the University of Toledo’s swift turnaround played their final home game Wednesday.

Fourteen seniors and their family members were honored at the Glass Bowl prior to a Mid-American Conference showdown with No. 20 Northern Illinois.

The senior class entered the evening 25-5 in MAC games and appears headed to a bowl game for the fourth year in a row. Toledo suffered four straight losing seasons prior to their arrival.

“When I took over this job I said for us to grow and reach our full potential the player ownership in our program had to take over,” second-year coach Matt Campbell said. “This class has certainly set the standard, and I’m really proud of that.”

Ten seniors started in the game: defensive ends Jayrone Elliott and Christian Smith, running back David Fluellen, receivers James Green and Bernard Reedy, center Zac Kerin, safety Ross Madison, quarterback Terrance Owens, punter Vince Penza, and snapper Matt Wall.

“You don’t want to remember this as your last game if you lose,” Elliott, who entered the night tied for third in the MAC in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (10.5), said last week.

Others to appear in their final home game were: linebackers Vladimir Emilien and Ethan Kagy, kicker Clay Simpkins, and offensive lineman Ben Steele.

Campbell credits his seniors for keeping the team afloat after a 2-3 start and fueling a five-game win streak.

“If you look at the video the last six or seven weeks it’s our seniors that have led the way,” he said. “Those guys have been outstanding.”

FLUELLEN BACK: Fluellen started after missing two games with an Achilles injury. He gained 10 yards on his first carry, which came on the first play of the second series. From that point forward he split snaps with freshman Kareem Hunt.

In his most recent appearance Fluellen rushed for 61 yards on three carries before leaving in the opening series at Bowling Green. He did not suit up for wins over Eastern Michigan and Buffalo.

Fluellen entered the night fourth in the MAC with 1,067 yards. His 133.4 yards per game was second to NIU’s Jordan Lynch’s 136.1

LAUTERBUR REMEMBERED: There was a moment of silence following the coin toss to remember deceased coach Frank Lauterbur. Lauterbur, who led the Rockets to undefeated seasons in 1969 and 1970, died Wednesday. He was 88. Lauterbur was in ill health and living in a care facility.

Lauterbur, who also served as athletic director, was 48-32-2 as head coach from 1963 to 1970. His teams began the famous 35-0 streak of 1969-71 and won MAC titles in 1967, 1969, and 1970.

PINK UNIFORMS: The Rockets broke out pink and blue threads to honor breast cancer awareness. The tops featured pink on the shoulders and the pants showed pink stripes on the back of the legs. Players accessorized the uniforms with pink socks and sweat towels.

CAMPBELL GIFTS: Campbell paid for hand warmers and hot chocolate that stadium workers distributed to students. The coach also published an article in the student newspaper urging students to show up.

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



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