Associated Press

Toledo Hopes It's Halfway Ready For Arkansas

Toledo got to play only a half in its season opener against Stony Brook, but Rockets head coach Matt Campbell thinks his team and quarterback Phillip Ely - a former Alabama signal caller - will be ready for the game with Arkansas in Little Rock on Saturday.

Toledo’s season opener last week lasted just until halftime, but head coach Matt Campbell is at  least happy he has some film to look at heading into this week’s game with No. 18 Arkansas.

The Rockets were leading Stony Brook 16-7 Thursday night when the game was called at halftime due to a trio of weather delays - two of over an hour and another one that lasted 25 minutes.

“Certainly last Thursday night was a tough and unfortunate situation,” Campbell said on Monday morning’s MAC Football Coaches Teleconfernce. “You know, what I was proud of with our football team was what we could control we controlled within the FB game. 

“Even though we didn't get to play an entire FB game, the thing I'm really proud of our kids is after about a two hour and 25 minute delay, when we had the opportunity to get back on the field, we really played a tremendous second quarter of football.

“We at least left the FB field playing great off, great defense and great special teams. I thought that was as you're looking for a silver line with not being able to complete a game that you prepared for, we were at least our football team was able to leave the football field playing great football. So I think we take that into the weekend.”

Toledo - whose game was ruled no contest since Stony Brooks’s athletic director refused to agree to give the Rockets the win - will now play Arkansas Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.

The Rockets have 15 starters returning from a 9-4 team that beat Arkansas State 63-44 last January in the Go Daddy Bowl.

Campbell doesn’t think that only playing one half will be a hindrance for Toledo against Arkansas.

“We got to get some really quality reps,” Campbell said. “We got a chance to put ourselves in position to get ourselves on film. Get some of those first-game jitters out. Like I said, we were playing really good football when the game got called. I think the disappointment for me is we didn't get to finish the last two quarters of the game. 

“But it's something we can't control and really haven't dwelled on once since the game ended. We've just pressed on. For us, it's continuing our process and knowing the growth that can happen between week one and week two. You certainly have to grow fast when you go play a great Arkansas team.”

The Razorbacks ripped UTEP 48-13 in the 2015 season opener for head coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks.

“Obviously you talk about the tremendous opponent that we go down and play,” Campbell said “After watching college football this weekend, probably one of the elite teams right now in the country. What a great challenge for our football program and our football team. 

“Obviously Coach Bielema has done a great job of taking what he built at Wisconsin and taking it down to Arkansas. You can certainly see a well-coached FB team on both sides of the ball. A team that's got great playmakers on the offensive side, led by honestly probably one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country right now in Brandon Allen. 

“I have so much respect for him and how he manages the FB game. You talk about the defensive side, a side this is physical and attacking and a tremendous secondary and a big physical defensive line. We know it'll be a great challenge for our Rockets, but certainly look forward to the challenge.”

Toledo’s offense is led by former Alabama quarterback Phillip Ely (6-1, 202), a senior who got into six games as A.J. McCarron’s back up in 2012 and actually completed two of three passes for 15 yards against Arkansas that season.

Ely redshirted in 2013 after transferring to Toledo and played in two games in 2014, going 17-of-34 for 304 yards with four touchdowns against New Hampshire before tearing his ACL and hurting his shoulder against Missouri in the second contest.

“No. 1 is we've played some big games and big opponents here the last couple years,” Campbell said. “A year ago Phillip played against Missouri. I think Phillip as much as the experience, it's just who he is as a competitor and a leader. 

“Phillip has come into our program and done a tremendous job. He's an extremely humble person, an extremely dynamic leader and a young man that has a great grasp of who we want to be offensively. 

“I think what he has the ability to do offensively for us is continue to keep the chains moving. He creates a big-play threat at all times and has got the athletic ability to make things happen with his feet as well. We're really excited to have him back this year and really excited to see what he's doing for us right now in our football program.”

Ely would have the conference’s leading rusher in the backfield to face the Razorbacks, but tailback Kareem Hunt (1,631 rushing yards last season) and defensive end Allen Covington were both suspended for the first two games of the season.

Damion Jones-Moore replaced Hunt and rushed for 70 yards and scored both of his team’s touchdowns against Stony Brook and will split carries with starter Terry Swanson.

“I'll be real honest, we've got great depth at both of those positions,” Campbell said. “I don't think it has much impact on our football team, other than the fact that there are two bodies that aren't in the rotation of what we do.”

Campbell is very familiar with Arkansas defensive coordinator Dan Enos, who was the coach at MAC foe Central Michigan.

“Well, I'll tell you, one thing I'll say is…Coach Enos got to a school that's got tremendous athletes,” Enos said. “He had some great offensive players at Central Michigan from an offensive standpoint. Has gone there and I think he's always done a really good job organizationally of putting his offense in great situations to be successful. 

“Obviously just getting a snippet of him and Arkansas' personnel vs. UTEP, you can tell they did a tremendous job. Obviously inherited a first-class quarterback there in Brandon Allen with what you have is a great match. Probably have an opportunity to do some really good things down there I'm sure.

“…Obviously have the ability to be a very power-run dominated team and certainly was that at Central Michigan. But also had the ability to spread you out … so I thought he did a really good job of that in last week's game. And obviously getting the ball out in space and making them not only play north and south but also east and west. He did a really good job of that.”

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