Rockets Pose Larger Threat in Week Two
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Akron and Toledo might play in the same conference, but it would take an actual rocket to close the gap between the team Ohio State faced last week and the one they are preparing for in week two.
While the Zips finished dead last in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) last season at 1-11, the Rockets were one victory away from taking the West division.
They had a rough non-conference stretch, but finished 7-1 in conference play, one game back of first-place Northern Illinois.
That difference in talent was palpable in week one. Akron was slammed 42-0 by the Buckeyes in their season-opener while Toledo took FCS New Hampshire to the woodshed with a 58-22 win.
“They do a great job keeping you honest in everything you do,” Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said during his weekly press luncheon.
“I think the thing you noticed the most is they've got playmakers that you might not see from some of the teams in the MAC or even teams you played early in the season at times.”
It was only New Hampshire, a middle of the pack team from the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), but the Rockets scored seven touchdowns and racked u nearly 600 yards of offense in their week-one win.
They were led by senior tailback Adonis Thomas, who had 115 yards and a score on just nine carries, and sophomore wideout Bernard Reedy, who caught five passes for 113 yards and two scores.
“They've got guys all over the field that can make plays, tailbacks wide receivers and quarterback,” said Fickell.
Like the Buckeyes, the Rockets used a two-quarterback rotation in their season opener. Junior Austin Dantin got the start and threw for 161 yards and three touchdowns, but backup Terrance Owens also had a good day.
The sophomore out of Cleveland Glenville—a school Buckeyes fans are well acquainted with—completed 10 of his 13 passes for 122 yards and two scores.
“We are going to play two quarterbacks,” Toledo Head Coach Tim Beckman said.
“Right now Austin Dantin’s got the heads up, but that’s why we practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That’s why we compete and that’s why we practice.”
Both quarterbacks played last season, with Owens taking over for Dantin late in the year after he was lost to an injury. With three seniors on the offensive line, they should be better than they were a year ago when they allowed 22 sacks.
The thing you don't talk about is them up front. I think that's where it starts for them,” Fickell said.
“They have athletes that move the ball around. Two quarterbacks that do a good job at running the offense, both very similar in what they can do, but up front wise, I think that's where they're a little bit probably a lot better than a lot of teams in their league. That's where it's going to start for them.”
The Rockets also have a dynamic kick returner named Eric Page. Page finished fourth in the country at over 31 yards per return last season.
“We've got to be better on special teams with our coverage making sure we've got contained and tackling. Because we're going to see a much better guy,” Fickell pointed out.
“Probably all American returner this week. So we'll truly have to do a better job there.”
Page has also led Toledo in receiving the last two seasons, racking up more than 2,200 yards and 15 touchdowns. He as their leading receiving the last time these two teams met in 2009, but the Rockets were shut out in a 38-0 Ohio State win at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Toledo has yet to score a point against the Buckeyes in their first two tries, and they will likely need more than a few Saturday. The Rockets beat New Hampshire by 36 points, but they allowed 18 first downs and 332 yards of offense—including 152 on the ground—to an FCS school that turned the ball over five times.
Even so, Fickell knows his opponent won't be intimidated when they walk into Ohio Stadium Saturday.
“They're not going to come in here and be in awe by any means,” he said.
“That comes from the top down, from Coach Beckman and the job that he does and he's not going to allow them to be in awe of walking in here 106,000.”
It’s the 11 guys on the other side of the field they have to worry about.
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