Panthers go on the road to take on Toledo

The 9th ranked Panthers (2-0) visit the Glass Bowl Saturday to take on the Toledo Rockets (2-1). Since the 2000 season, Toledo has been 18-1 at home and has soundly beaten the Big Ten's Minnesota 38-7 and Penn State 24-6. Pitt is 8-2 in their last 10 games away from home. It is their best road stretch since the 1980, '81, and '82 seasons when they won 14 consecutive away games.

Toledo returns 4 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense from a team that went 9-5 last season and played in the Motor City Bowl.

The Rockets run the spread offense, which has given the Panthers trouble in years past. Sophomore QB Brad Gradkowski has been excellent in his first year as a starter and has a huge offensive line, averaging 315 lbs., protecting him. Gradkowski has completed 38 of 63 passes for 521 yards and 7 TD's this season, with no interceptions. He's also been effective running the ball, having rushed for 122 yards on 21 carries for a 5.8 yards per carry average.

Gradkowski's favorite receiving targets are junior WR Lance Moore and junior TE Andrew Clarke. Moore has 11 catches for 155 yards and Clarke has 9 catches for 155 yards and 4 TD's. The leading rusher for the Rockets is sophomore Trinity Dawson. He has rushed for 244 yards on 50 carries and 1 TD for a 4.9 yards per carry average.

On defense, the Rockets return their entire starting defensive line from a year ago. They also feature a standout safety in junior Patrick Body, who already has two interceptions this season. Sophomore linebacker Keon Jackson is another standout player who started as a freshman last season.

Toledo is coming off of a 24-17 win at conference rival Marshall. Marshall is 50-2 at home the last 7 years so that tells you how tough it is to beat them at home. Toledo's only loss so far this season was at UNLV, 28-18. UNLV upset #15 Wisconsin at Madison last week 23-5.

Pitt will be looking to put behind last week's sloppy 42-21 win over Ball State. The Panthers were called for 12 penalties resulting in 90 yards and also coughed up 3 fumbles during the game. This is the Panther's first road game of the season.

Brian Gold
PittInsiders.com


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