The soft opening went the way the University of Toledo had hoped. Now the Rockets have to get it right for the real thing in three weeks.
UT had a full-pads scrimmage in front of about 200 fans Saturday at the Glass Bowl for Fan Appreciation Day, after which fans lined up for autographs and pictures with the players.
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The play itself was the college approximation of a NFL preseason game, and coach Matt Campbell said he saw what he wanted out of day six of fall camp, which he said was Toledo’s best. It was done in an atmosphere similar to a game was a point of pride, he said.
“For us, that’s what makes it pretty special to play here. We’ve got great fans, and this city has done such a great job supporting our program,” Campbell said. “I think it shows the excitement that’s around the football program, and I think what it does for our young guys who maybe haven’t played in this environment is it puts them in situations where it’s a little bit close to what it’s going to look like come August 30 when we have a great crowd in the Glass Bowl.”
ACTIVE DEFENSE: UT was creative in their blitz packages, and many of them were confusing enough to work. The defense picked up five sacks and foiled numerous other pass plays in about a half’s worth of snaps.
EVEN SPLIT: All three phases were close to equal in the number of good plays each made. The offense scored 17 points and did not turn over the ball, while the special teams were perfect and the defense was disruptive. Campbell was thrilled that most series were decided by someone making a good play, not someone making a mistake.
“I tell you, I thought these practices were awesome,” Campbell said. “We’re really just installing our offense and defense, and I really thought there were a lot of positive plays. There weren’t a lot of negative plays.”
THE QB RACE: The Rockets went 11-on-11 in full pads for about 40 minutes during the session, with Phillip Ely, Logan Woodside, and Michael Julian alternating series.
Ely completed the most with five passes during the 11-on-11 sessions. It would have had seven if two balls hadn’t been dropped by receivers.
Woodside had the only drop-back touchdown pass of the session, a completion of more than 30 yards against single coverage.
Julian threw a shovel pass to running back Terry Swanson that turned into a long touchdown, and also picked up a first down with a scramble.
Campbell said the defense intentionally turned up the pressure Saturday to see how the quarterbacks dealt with it.
Of the three, Ely’s decisions were the best. He was not sacked and made several quick, useful check-downs. Woodside was sacked three times and Julian was cornered in the backfield twice.
“As you’re in the quarterback race we’re in right now, you gotta create stressful situations where they got to manage and work through it. We’ll sit down and evaluate how they dealt with the pressure,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the Rockets will split first-team work for another week, then likely make a decision “probably after next weekend.”
Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz.