Toledo: Inside the Numbers

With the football season kicking off in tomorrow, excitement is in the air on the campus of Iowa State. The Toledo Rockets are looking to start their season off with a win on Cyclone turf, and that means it's time to take a good look at the Cyclone's first challenger and see just how good the Rockets are statistically.

The 2006 season is being setup as a "season of opportunity" for the Cyclones and this team will definitely have plenty of chances to show it can run with the big dogs.  Everyone knows that ISU has one of the toughest schedules in the nation, but like any good coach will tell you, the season must be taken one game at a time.

 

At this point I bet you are probably wondering, "Who is this guy?" I can help you out there.  My name is Ryan Hillary and I am a Cyclone-aholic (this is where you all say "Hi Ryan" or something like that).  I love everything about Iowa State and can never get enough Cyclone information. I live, eat, breath, and dream ISU. I am currently a super-senior (god bless the 5 year program) in mechanical engineering at ISU. I just got engaged last Thursday, and I own a pet ferret named Whiskers. I am guessing you are now saying "Wow, ferrets are sweet, but why should I read what an engineer has to say about football?"  The answer to that question is that I am a hardcore fan that has a knack for statistics. Being an engineer means I look at everything by numbers. Is this a good thing? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but every week I will supply you with interesting (and sometimes kooky) statistics about both the Cyclones and that week's opponent. There will be weeks will I will rant and rave between stats so please, bare with me. Since there was no game last week, I will leave the Cyclone's statistics to other writers to interpret as they wish and focus on Toledo. Ok, now that we got that out of the way; let's talk some football shall we?

 

Up Next

 

The first opportunity for the Cyclones to shine comes against a strong mid-major team that had a good year last year. The Toledo Rockets come to town to play the Cyclones for the first time in history. The Rockets went 9-3 last year with their losses being to Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Fresno State. They did win their bowl game versus a good UTEP team but other than that, they really didn't play anyone. I mean, come on, they had wins against Western Illinois (5-6 in 1-AA), Buffalo (1-10), Ball State (4-7), Temple (0-11), and Ohio (4-7). Those aren't exactly powerhouses.  Still, this is a solid team with hopes of bringing in a MAC title this year. They are coached by Tom Amstutz who is starting his 7th year of coaching with a record of 45-18, which isn't too shabby.

 

Offense

           

The team returns eight starters on offense and the good news for Toledo is that four of the five O-line men return (including All-MAC stud John Greco) that only gave up 13 sacks and pushed the way for a 5.3 yard per carry rushing game. The bad news is the team is hurt by the graduation of QB Bruce Gradkowski and RB Trinity Dawson.  These two players accounted for 38 of the rockets 50 total touchdowns (or 76%).  They also lose their main back-up running back in Quinton Broussand who had a 7.2 yard per carry average with 462 total yards and five touchdowns. These three players added up to 4516 total yards of offense, or 84.17% of their total 5365 offensive yards (not including special teams).  That is hard to replace, but the cupboard isn't totally bare. Sophomore QB Clint Cochran has some back-up playing time under his belt, as does projected RB starter Jalen Parmele. The team also returns top wide receiver Steve Odom who accounted for six of Gradkowski's TDs with 690 yards. The Rockets like to distribute the ball to a number of WRs, with 8 WRs having over 100 yards total last year. Now that you have some good knowledge of the O, let's look at the D.

 

Defense

 

The Rockets defense returns seven starters from last year's team that held opposing offenses to only 317.7 yards per game. The Rockets run a 3-4 style defense, using their outsider linebackers to blitz the QB for added passing pressure. The D returns all three starting D-linemen from a line that held teams to a measly 125 rushing yards per game. The line backing situation is a little different. Toledo loses their leading tackler in Anthony Jordan (107) and their 3rd leading tackler in David Thomas (86).  These two guys alone accounted for more than a fifth (20.9%) of the team's total 922 tackles.  But that shouldn't stop this LB group. The group will be lead by All-MAC stud Mike Alston (59 tackles last season), with help from his pain bringin' buddies Keith Forestal (8), Steven Morrison (31), and Mike Chamberlain (59). The secondary of the Rockets should be good with one safety and one cornerback returning. That returnee on safety just happens to be Tyrrell Herbert (2nd on team in tackles with 94!) and the corner is Nigel Morris (33). There is going to be some initial drop off with the loss of Keon Jackson and his team high four interceptions. The key to this DB unit is whether RFr Lester Richmond can cover the loss of Keon Jackson.  If he does, this DB unit is going to be (as D-Mac says) "special"; if he can't it is still going to be a tough group to score on.

 

Special Teams

 

Bad news here if you're a Rocket fan….but good news for us Cyclones. The Rockets lost their perfect (13-13 with a long of 44) kicker Jason Robbins to graduation. They are replacing him with a true freshman named Alex Steigerwald, who connected on 19 of 21 kicks last season at Cleveland Benedictine High School. But as Dorothy would say, "We aren't in Cleveland anymore"…or something like that. Brett Kern returns as the Punt man but that might not be the brightest spot. He averaged 39.5 yards per punt on 20 punts (yeah, that is good enough to get you at 105th in the nation for net punting yards) and had four punts blocked. On the upside for the Rockets, kick off return special Richard Davis will be back (he averaged 22.8 yards and had a TD) along with Steve Odom (averaged 24.8 yards per return).

 

Final Verdict

 

I just threw a lot of numbers at you so you are probably like me asking, "Can I get some cliffs notes of something?"  Sure thing. The O-line will be good, they are breaking in a new QB and RB, but they return last year's best WR. The D will be good at the very least, and if they can plug a few holes, they could be great. The special teams ….well…they will be entertaining. I hope these numbers give you something to look for when watching the game on Thursday night.  And remember, when the last whistle blows there is one stat that is most important…the stat that goes in the W/L column.


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