High-Flying Rockets Next For Buckeyes

Ohio State continues the 2011 season Saturday at home with an interesting matchup against in-state foe Toledo. A team currently in the MAC hasn't beaten OSU in more than a century, but the Rockets come in as conference favorites and boast an explosive offense that should test a rebuilt Buckeye defense. Find out more in this preview of the visitors.

Saturday, Sept. 10
Noon ET, BTN
Ohio Stadium; Columbus

The Rockets
Head coach: Tim Beckman, 14-12, third year
2010 record: 8-5 (7-1, 2nd Mid-American Conference West)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 2-0
School location: Toledo, Ohio
Enrollment: 23,064
Colors: Midnight Blue and Gold
Stadium: Glass Bowl
Fight song: "U of Toledo"

There are plenty of storylines as Ohio State gets ready to take on Toledo in the second game of the 2011 campaign.

One of the most obvious is that Toledo head coach Tim Beckman is a former Ohio State assistant. Beckman was the team's cornerback coach in 2005-06, two years OSU won Big Ten titles and lost a total of three games, and told BuckeyeSports.com that the coaches he worked with on the Buckeye staff are like family.

He's also looking forward to being back in venerable Ohio Stadium.

"It's a great, great atmosphere," Beckman said. "It's one of the best in the country, there's no question. Being a coach's son and being around football my whole life, this is what you coach for, to play in venues like the 'Shoe."

But of more particular interest to Ohio State fans is that Beckman brings a team of good quality into the Horseshoe. The Rockets went 8-5 last year, including a 7-1 record in the MAC and a last-second bowl game loss to Florida International.

The team, which many observers expect to win the MAC this year, then christened 2010 with a 58-22 domination of Division I-AA power New Hampshire in the season opener Sept. 1 in the Glass Bowl.

"I was real proud," said Beckman, who is in his third year after taking over a team that was 3-9 in 2008. "I thought the seniors did a great job of setting the tempo during preseason camp on what needs to be accomplished. It's the first opener we've won since 2005. I thought we started fast and played pretty good for four quarters.

"Preseason polls don't mean anything, but I think we had a great start for us and we've had a great camp and we're excited about the way that we're heading here with the program."

The Rockets also have a history of knocking off foes from more decorated conferences. Toledo is 0-2 all-time vs. OSU, including a 38-0 loss in Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2009, but is 1-0 vs. both Penn State and Michigan and has beaten a team from a BCS conference in each of the past five seasons.

"You want to make sure they know who their opponent is," Fickell said. "You've got to know your opponent every bit as much as you know yourself, and knowing their history is a big part of that. They're not going to come in here and be in awe by any means. 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."

Offense In A Nutshell
Toledo's offense found its stride near the midpoint of the 2010 campaign, averaging 34.9 points per game in its last seven contests and topping 30 in each of those outings. Against New Hampshire, the Rockets were at 30 by halftime on the way to the dominating win.

"They do a great job keeping you honest in everything you do," Fickell said. "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. They've got guys all over the field that can make plays.

"But the thing you don't talk about is them up front. I think that's where it starts for them. 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 probably a lot better than a lot of teams in their league. That's where it's going to start for them."

Toledo does play two quarterbacks, but junior Austin Dantin will get the starting nod. He was 127 of 198 (66.1 percent) for 1,254 yards, seven touchdowns and eight picks last year while rushing for 292 yards and eight scores before suffering a collarbone injury. He was back in the fold against UNH, going 15 of 21 for 161 yards and three touchdowns while rushing four times for 27 yards.

Backup Terrance Owens is a Cleveland Glenville grad who also boasts solid numbers. Owens tossed 12 touchdown passes – six of which were 30 yards or more – against five interceptions in the last five games. The 6-4, 180-pounder also stood out in the opener, going 10 of 13 for 122 yards and two touchdown passes.

The running back position is also in good hands with Adonis Thomas taking the lion's share of the carries. The senior went on a late-season rampage last year in which he ran for 763 yards, 7.3 yards per carry and had six touchdowns in the last six games to earn second-team All-MAC honors. He picked up where he left off in the opener, gaining 115 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. A former wideout, Thomas can also catch the ball, as he hauled in 31 catches last year and had four in the opener.

A first-team All-MAC choice as a wideout last year, Eric Page finished seventh in the country last year with 7.6 catches per game. On the whole, the fast, elusive 5-10, 180-pounder from Holland (Ohio) Springfield had 99 grabs for 1,105 yards and eight scores, and he had five catches and a touchdown in the opener. Bernard Reedy also caught five passes, accumulating 113 yards and two scores, in the opener while Illinois transfer Cordale Scott and Kenny Stafford bring size and Danny Noble is a complete player at tight end.

The offensive line is led by four-year starters Mike VanderMeulen at left tackle and John Moorokian at right tackle. Left guard Phillip Manley also returns after starting in 2010, while new starters Zac Kerin (sophomore center) and Greg Mancz (redshirt freshman right guard) are highly touted.

QB 4 Austin Dantin, 6-2, 200
RB 24 Adonis Thomas, 5-10, 185
WR-X 3 Cordale Scott, 6-4, 220
WR-Z 11 Bernard Reedy, 5-9, 175
WR-M 12 Eric Page, 5-10, 180
TE 9 Danny Noble, 6-5, 233
LT 74 Mike VanDerMeulen, 6-7, 304
LG 78 Phillipkeith Manley, 6-5, 309
C 67 Zac Kerin, 6-5, 294
RG 75 Greg Mancz, 6-5, 280
RT 72 John Morookian, 6-5, 301
PK 4 Ryan Casano, 5-10, 178
KOR 12 Eric Page, 5-10, 180, AND 11 Bernard Reedy, 5-9, 175

Defense In A Nutshell
Last year, the Rockets finished fifth in the nation in turnovers forced with 34 and tied for eighth in interceptions with 20. Perhaps proving that's not a fluke, the Rockets nabbed five more turnovers against New Hampshire, including three fumble recoveries.

"We've been preaching that since we got here," Beckman said. "We know that this is an easy game – if you get the football and give it to your offense, your offense has an opportunity to score."

Even with those turnovers, the Rockets still finished in the middle of the pack last year in defense. The Rockets finished fifth in the MAC in rushing defense at 133.4 yards per game, a mark good enough to place 36th in the country. Overall, Toledo was seventh in the league in total defense (364.8 yards) and ninth in scoring D (28.5 points).

The starting Leo is Toledo's best defensive lineman, T.J. Fatinikun, a third-team All-MAC choice last year while racking up 51 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles. He was also dominant against the Wildcats in the opener, making five tackles including 2½ TFL and a sack.

On the other side, Riley is a senior coming off a 44-tackle season, while nose tackle Johnathan Lamb is listed as a possible breakout candidate. Nose tackle Johnie Roberts had 35 tackles a season ago.

At linebacker, Toledo will be without its top returning tackler, Dan Molls, who has been ruled out with a leg injury. Molls made 143 tackles in 2010 and was 10th in the nation in stops per game. Will linebacker Robert Bell had eight sacks and forced two fumbles in the opener, while senior Charles Rancifer took over at star and had eight stops vs. UNH as well. Senior Terrell Anderson, who had three tackles in the opener and 18 last year, is listed as Molls' backup.

The secondary is experienced. Cornerback Desmond Marrow is a sixth-year senior who had 72 tackles last year, while on the other side, senior Taikwon Paige had 19 stops and an interception last year. Strong safety Jermaine Robinson is a junior coming off a 46-tackle season, while free safety Diauntae Morrow takes over for the injured Mark Singer and had six tackles in the opener.

DE 97 Malcolm Riley, 6-3, 281
DT (Nose) 94 Johnie Roberts, 6-3, 280
DT 52 Johnathan Lamb, 6-4, 285
DE (Leo) 23 T.J. Fatinikun, 6-2, 245
LB (Star) 10 Charles Rancifer, 6-3, 217
LB (Mike) 49 Terrell Anderson, 6-1, 215
LB (Will) 38 Robert Bell, 6-0, 227
FCB 2 Taikwon Paige, 5-11, 185
SS 29 Jermaine Robinson, 6-3, 188
FS 5 Diauntae Morrow, 6-0, 199
BCB 3 Desmond Marrow, 6-3, 210
P 35 Vince Penza, 6-1, 201
PR 12 Eric Page, 5-10, 180

Five Fast Facts
1. Page is also special as a return man. Page is truly special as a return man. Last year's MAC Special Teams Player of the Year and a first-team All-American as a kickoff returner, Page had three touchdowns and averaged 31.1 yards per return, good for third in the country and a school record.

2. Toledo had a 35-game winning streak from 1969-71, winning all games those three years to post the second-longest streak in Divi¬sion I-A college football history. The Rockets finished 12th in the final AP poll in 1970. One year later, quarterback Chuck Ealey finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

3. Beckman has been on winning teams every year in the past decade but 2009, his first year in Toledo in which he the Rockets went 5-7. Bowling Green was above .500 every year from 2001-04 when Beckman was the Falcons' defensive coordinator, while Ohio State and Oklahoma State went to bowls each year he was on their defensive staffs.

4. Kicker Ryan Casano made only 2 of 7 field goals last season but was 3 of 3 in the opener to earn MAC West specialist of the week honors.

5. Casano was born in Rome before growing up in Texas, while Fatinikun was born in Lagos, Nigeria, before moving to Perrysburg, Ohio.

Last Time Out
For the second time in as many matchups, the Ohio State football team not only defeated Toledo but blanked the Rockets. The Buckeyes downed Toledo, 38-0, in a game played at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sept. 19, 2009.

The virtually stress-free victory came at a perfect time. The buildup to the game was filled with second-guessing and hand-wringing because of Ohio State's previous game – a crushing 18-15 loss at Ohio Stadium to USC. The Trojans scored a late touchdown and handed the Buckeyes their sixth loss in a row against top-10 competition.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the Rockets were far from a national contender. Despite having a high-powered offense, Toledo put up little fight on the shores of Lake Erie. Ohio State took out its aggression on both offense and defense, piling up 522 yards of total offense to crack the 500-yard mark for the first time since its 42-39 victory against Michigan in 2006. The defense also stood tall, pitching its first shutout since a 43-0 season-opening win against Youngstown State in 2008.

"Our kids did a great job of approaching this football game the right way," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said in the Sept. 26, 2009, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "Our defense came out of the box, and when you swarm on defense, it gives your offense a lot of opportunities."

Sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor piled up 372 yards of total offense, the fifth-highest total in program history and the best since Troy Smith netted 402 against Notre Dame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Pryor completed 17 of 18 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns and was also the game's leading rusher with 110 yards on 12 carries.

It did not take Ohio State long to put the game essentially out of reach. The Buckeyes scored two first-quarter touchdowns and cruised out to a commanding lead by halftime. After the defense forced Toledo to a three-and-out on the game's first possession, Pryor led a 79-yard drive that lasted less than a minute. On a third-and-7 play from the OSU 24-yard line, Pryor found junior Dane Sanzenbacher open in the Toledo half of the field and hit him in stride. Sanzenbacher caught the pass at about the UT 35 and outran safety Lester Richmond to the end zone for a 76-yard touchdown with 13:13 remaining.

The same thing happened after the touchdown, with Toledo going three-and-out and OSU responding with a score. A 12-play Buckeye drive that lasted 6:33 ended with Pryor again connecting with Sanzenbacher, this time for an 18-yard score with 5:51 left in the first quarter.

Dan Herron added a touchdown early in the second quarter and Aaron Pettrey added a 47-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to extend the lead to 24-0 at halftime and end a dominant first half. Ohio State led in first downs, 15-3, and had 327 yards of offense compared to only 85 for Toledo.

Ohio State capped the game with a pair of touchdowns in the second half. Pryor ran for a 1-yard score in the third quarter at the end of a nine-play, 86-yard drive and threw a 4-yard scoring pass to sophomore DeVier Posey in the fourth quarter to cap an 11-play, 80-yard drive.

Toledo was held out of the end zone thanks in large part to a highlight reel-worthy play by OSU senior safety Kurt Coleman. The Rockets appeared to get a touchdown early in the fourth quarter when receiver Eric Page looked primed to cross the goal line after a 26-yard gain, but Coleman stripped the ball from behind and junior linebacker Ross Homan recovered the fumble in the end zone to force a touchback and end the threat.

"Give a lot of credit to their defense," Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt said. "We've played a lot of other great defenses, but they're definitely right up there (with the best). They're a great team with a great pass rush."

The pass rush forced two sacks, one by junior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and one split by sophomore defensive end Nathan Williams and sophomore linebacker Etienne Sabino. Twenty-nine different Buckeyes recorded at least one tackle, with junior linebacker Brian Rolle leading the way with eight stops. Reserve linebacker Andrew Sweat intercepted a pass.

An ill starting punter in Jon Thoma forced Ben Buchanan into action for the first time. He punted four times for an average of 42.8 yards with a long of 51 yards.

Sanzenbacher finished with five receptions for 126 yards, and Posey also nabbed five passes for 46 yards.

"We were definitely motivated by our performance last week," Posey said. "We felt like we underachieved. Every day everybody had that same gut feeling about that game. There wasn't a second last week that I didn't think about that game. We just needed a big win to get our minds off it."

BSB staff writer Matthew Hager contributed to this story.

Follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories