Holy Toledo

Rockets are no easy matchup for the Panthers

Toledo (3-1) is coming off of a 38-21 victory over UNLV. Pitt (3-1) is coming off of a 23-3 victory over Rutgers in its Big East opener. Toledo finished the 2001 season with a 10-2 record, which was good for 1st place in the MAC West Division and it defeated Cincinnati in the Motor City Bowl.

Toledo returns 4 starters on both sides of the ball. The team strengths for the Rockets are their QB, O-line, WRs and linebackers. Toledo has two outstanding inside linebackers in seniors Tom Ward, 6-1, 236 lbs, and David Gardner, 6-2, 231 lbs. Toledo also returns both starting cornerbacks in 6-1, 186 lb senior Jehu Anderson and 6-1, 170 lb junior Brandon Hefflin. Toledo's defensive coordinator use to be an assistant at Virginia Tech, and the Rockets play the same style of pressure defense that the Hokies play. If Toledo has a weak point on defense it may be a smaller than average defensive line, although they make up for it with a pressure style and outstanding linebackers.

The Rockets feature a spread offense, which all Pitt fans still fear after the South Florida game last season. What makes them so dangerous is that they can run and pass equally well and that makes them tough to stop for any defense. Senior QB Brian Jones, 6-2, 215 lbs leads the way. He is 54 of 78 for 674 yards and 3 TDs this season. The Rockets' ground game is led by 5-8, 225 lb senior William Bratton. He has 385 yards on 61 carries for a 6.3 yards per carry average and 8 TDs. Returning starter Carl Ford, a 6-1, 170 lb senior, leads the receiving unit. He has 18 catches for 230 yards and 1 TD this year. Toledo also features another returning WR starter in Donta Greene, a 5-7, 180 lb senior. He has 9 catches for 104 yards so far this season. Senior Manny Johnson, 5-7, 155 lbs, is another featured WR. He has 10 catches for 104 yards and 2 TDs this season. Toledo has nine offensive players with at least 3 catches this season! They also have an amazing six RBs with at least 14 carries this season, which tells you they really like to spread the ball around quite a bit!

Pitt's offense will need to greatly improve for this game, as the Toledo offense will score some points. They will need to eliminate the turnovers they had last week and control the ball and keep it away from the Toledo offense. They also need to improve in the field goal and extra point kicking areas. The Pitt defense will need to tackle well and get off the field, because this type of offense that can really wear you down. They also need to dish out some hard hits and make the Rockets' WRs and RBs pay when they catch the ball.

After seeing Pitt get killed by the spread last year against South Florida and seeing the Steelers get killed by the spread against the Raiders and Patriots, can anyone in the city of Pittsburgh stop a good passing attack??? We'll see soon enough! Pitt fans need to get into this game early and create a loud atmosphere when the Rockets' spread offense takes the field!


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