The past two seasons, Western Michigan has derailed the University of Toledo football team’s chances to reach the Mid-American Conference title game.
Two years ago, the Rockets needed just a home win against the 6-5 Broncos, but WMU stunned Toledo in a 35-30 win at the Glass Bowl.
Last season, Western Michigan was a juggernaut and in an essential play-in game, the Broncos hammered Toledo 55-35 in Kalamazoo, Mich., to cap a perfect regular season.
Toledo's Trevon Mathis brings down Bowling Green's Josh Cleveland during the Rockets' 66-37 at BGSU Wednesday. "(Western Michigan is) a great football team over there, and we know this is their Super Bowl," the UT cornerback said of this Friday's game against Western Michigan.
Now, Toledo (9-2, 6-1 MAC) hopes the third time is a charm, as it needs just a home win Friday against Western Michigan (6-5, 4-3 MAC) to make it to its first MAC championship game since 2004.
“We’ve been put in this moment the past two years and we know how big this moment is,” UT senior cornerback Trevon Mathis said. “We feel like we’ve been robbed the past two years. We know how big this is. That’s a great football team over there, and we know this is their Super Bowl. We’re attacking it just like any other week — preparing, taking care of our bodies, and getting ready for the game.”
So what’s different this time around?
“Just the preparation and the maturity of the team is different,” Mathis said. “Guys are just being accountable, taking care of their bodies and guys are more into watching the film and getting better overall.“
The victory in 2015 against Toledo propelled Western Michigan to its memorable undefeated regular season last year, a year that ended with 13-1 after a Cotton Bowl loss to Wisconsin.
The Broncos are an experienced team this season thanks to players who have contributed to the recent success of the program.
“They have a lot of returning players from a really good team last year,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “There are 14 or 15 starters on the team that returned from that team that won a lot of games last year. So we are kidding ourselves if we don’t feel like this is a good team. This [Western Michigan] team knows how to win and has an edge to it.”
Coming off a win Wednesday against rival Bowling Green, the Rockets have a long week to prepare for the Broncos.
“I think it’s just like every other week,” UT quarterback Logan Woodside said. “We are going to prepare the same way. They have a really good football team coming in and they have our full attention. We are just going to go out and try to execute to the best of our ability.”
The seniors, who will be honored before the game, still have the past two years in the back of their mind, but this season represents a new opportunity.
“We do remember it, but we are not going to live in that moment,” UT running back Terry Swanson said. “We are just going to go out there and play Toledo football and do what we have to do.”
“It’s a new situation,” Woodside added. “Obviously a lot of players were on that team, but that’s a totally different year. They have a lot of new guys and so do we. We just have to get ready to play and execute.”
Aside from a slip up at Ohio, Toledo has answered every challenge placed before it in the MAC. Led by a standout senior class, the Rockets will look to erase some of the past heartache suffered against Western Michigan.
“We’re definitely going to come out and play with a chip on our shoulder and not forget the last two years,” UT senior defensive tackle Marquise Moore said. “But we can’t go out there and be like ‘Oh, we’ve got to win because they beat us the last two years.’ We just have to go out and play our game.”
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