Tiger Opponent Preview: Toledo Rockets

On Saturday (2:30 P.M., ESPNU), the Missouri Tigers (1-0) play host to the Toledo Rockets (0-1) in non-conference action. This is the first-ever meeting between Missouri and Toledo, and ShowMeMizzou.com previews the Rockets.

On Saturday (2:30 P.M., ESPNU), the Missouri Tigers (1-0) play host to the Toledo Rockets (0-1) in non-conference action. This is the first-ever meeting between Missouri and Toledo, where in 2009 Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel was inducted into the Varsity T Hall of Fame. In 10 seasons (1991-2000) at Toledo, Coach Pinkel amassed a 73-37-3, the most wins in school history. In 1995, he led Toledo to a 11-0-1 record and the MAC Championship. Several members of Coach Pinkel’s current Missouri staff were with him at Toledo.

Coach Pinkel is 91-61 in his 13th season at Missouri where he is just three victories shy of moving into second place on the school's all-time wins list, and where he enters this week’s contest trailing Missouri’s all-time winningest coach, Don Faurot, by just 10 wins.

“I have the utmost respect for Gary Pinkel, and what he has done in his career,” said current Toledo Head Coach Matt Campbell.

Last year, the Rockets finished 9-4 in Coach Campbell’s first full season as Toledo’s Head Coach. Last week, Toledo lost, 24-6, at Florida.

“I have great respect for the University of Toledo, and all the success they’ve had over the years,” said Coach Pinkel. “And, certainly the success when they play outside their league…………………………………………….. Toledo is a real good football program. They have a rich tradition there…………………………………………. Matt Campbell’s done a great job. (He’s) a young coach, but a very disciplined coach. Their team plays well. They’re a very well-coached team. They’ve got good players. They’ve recruited very well. They’ve just done a great job with that program………………………………………… We have great respect for them.”

The Rockets returned 16 starters from 2012, including 9 on offense. Their offense is multiple, including a variety of some spread looks and some power formations. This is basically the same Toledo offense that in 2012 averaged 31.5 points/game and 445.2 yards/game. Last year, the Rockets were pretty well balance on offense between the run and the pass, 193.2 rushing yards/game, and 252 passing yards/game. In addition, in 2012, Toledo scored 21 TDs on the ground and 19 TDs through the air.

Toledo returned three starters up front from a year ago, including 2012 First-Team All-MAC selection, senior center Zac Kerin 6’5” 300, and right tackle Greg Mancz 6’5” 300, a 2012 Third-Team All-MAC selection, who earlier this week said that they “take a lot of pride in scoring touchdowns”.

The Rockets returned all of their offensive skill position players from a year ago, including senior QB Terrance Owens 6’4” 205, who in 2011 set a MAC single-season record with a 72.2% completion rate. For his career, Owens has passed for 6,128 yards and 45 TDs while completing 63.4% of his pass attempts (143.95 efficiency rating). He’s also rushed for 751 yards (4.1 yards/carry) and scored 7 rushing TDs. The lefty struggled last week at Florida (17-38-1, for 155 yards), and is looking to bounce back against Missouri.

He is joined in the backfield by senior running back David Fluellen 6’0” 215, a tough, physical runner who was a 2012 First-Team All-MAC selection when he rushed for 1,498 yards (5.8 yards/carry) and 13 TDs. For his career, Fluellen has averaged 5.6 yards/carry. He’s been named to multiple 2013 watch lists, including the 2013 Doak Walker Award Watch List, an award for which he was a semi-finalist a year ago. He has a nice combination of speed, power, and elusiveness. He can make you miss, or run through a tackle. Last week at Florida, he ran for 46 yards on 9 carries and had 3 receptions for 42 yards.

Toledo’s primary receiving threat is their multi-purpose back, senior Bernard Reedy 5’9” 175, who was a 2012 First-Team All-MAC selection. He’s the key to their offense. He lines up all over the formation, and they put him in motion to move him around even more. He’s also the Rockets’ All-MAC return man, very dangerous at all times with the ball in his hands. For his career, Reedy has 140 receptions for 1953 yards (14.0 yards/reception) and 15 TDs. Last week, Reedy had 7 receptions for 50 yards.

Sophomore WR Alonzo Russell 6’4” 190 is another favorite target for Owens. Last year, Russell was a Third-Team All-MAC selection after a red-shirt freshman season in which he had 56 receptions for 960 yards (17.1 yards/reception) and 5 TDs. Last week at Florida, Russell had 3 receptions for 19 yards.

Another returning starter, placekicker Jeremiah Detmer, accounted for all of Toledo’s points against Florida. Detmer, who was third-team All-MAC in 2012, has now made 19 consecutive field goals.

Toledo’s defense returned just 4 starters from a year ago, and the Rockets list 14 freshmen or sophomores among their 22-man two-deep on defense. The Rockets play multiple defenses featuring either 3-man or 4-man fronts. Toledo utilizes a hybrid DE/LB who provides them with the flexibility of lining up with either a 3-man or a 4-man front without substituting personnel. Their other OLB will also walk up to the line of scrimmage to create the look of a 5-man front. Against Florida, Toledo showed a variety of coverages in the secondary, including cover two, nickel, and dime packages.

Against Florida, the Toledo LBs were very productive. Junior WLB Junior Sylvestre 6’0” 215 registered 11 tackles against the Gators, and sophomore MLB Chase Murdock 6’0” 215 had 9 tackles, both of which were career highs. In addition, sophomore SLB Trent Voss 6’3” 220 registered 10 tackles at Florida.

The Rockets run pretty well, and they do a very good job of getting a number of hats to the football. They’re very physical, and they appear to be very well-coached. They tackle well and they do a good job of maintaining leverage.

Up front, the Rockets have decent size, but they are young. Senior hybrid DE/LB Jay Elliot 6’3” 240 was their sack leader (6 sacks) from a year ago, and he garnered a sack last Saturday at Florida.

Their best defensive player is junior corner Cheatham Norrils 6’0” 195, who was a Third-Team All-MAC selection in 2012, and is the Rockets’ leading returning tackler with 74 total tackles from a year ago. He was busy at Florida in week one, with 5 total tackles and a forced fumble.

Earlier this week, Coach Campbell talked about his team’s approach to playing at Missouri.

“For us, it’s one game at a time,” said Coach Campbell, who explained that teams usually experience their greatest growth between week one and week two. “It’s the next step for the 2013 Rockets. And that’s us taking what we saw on film last week, evaluating it, how do we get better. And, (that’s) making sure that we take that next step this week as we head out to Missouri.”

“We’ll continue to get better each and every week,” explained Coach Campbell. “I felt that way after I left that field last Saturday. I knew what kind of football team I had. And I know we’ll continue to get better and we’ll make the adjustments that we need to get better.”

Small Sample Size Comparative Statistics

(NCAA Ranking in Parenthesis)

CATEGORY ________ MIZZOU (1-0) _________ TOLEDO (0-1)

Total Offense __________ 694 (3) _______________ 205 (109)

Rushing Offense ________ 358 (9) ________________50 (104)

Passing Offense ________ 336 (18) _______________155 (T-87)

Scoring Offense ________ 58 (T-8) _______________ 6 (T-105)

Total Defense _________ 297 (32) _______________ 415 (65)

Rushing Defense ______ 123 (45) ______________ 262 (100)

Passing Eff. Defense _____ 98 (35)_______________ 150.7 (77)

Scoring Defense _______ 14 (T-34) _______________ 24 (T-53)

Turnover Margin _______ 2 (T-10) ________________ 0 (T-47)

3rd Down Conv. Pct. ____ 0.688 (8) ______________ 0.077 (111)

3rd Down Conv. Def. ___0.421 (T-71) ______________ 0.5 (T-86)

Red Zone Offense ______0.8 (T-75) ________________ 1 (T-1)

Red Zone Defense _______1 (T-41) ________________0.667 (18)

Net Punting ____________38 (T-51) _______________ 35.57 (72)

Kickoff Returns __________21 (54) _______________16.75 (T-88)

First Downs Off. _________33 (T-4) _______________12 (T-103)

First Downs Def. ________16 (T-31) ________________22 (T-69)

Fewest Penalties __________2 (T-6) __________________4 (T-24)

Fewest Penalty Yds. _______20 (13) _________________45 (T-55)

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