Toledo was an underdog as they traveled to Jonesboro, Arkansas to take on Arkansas State once again. The Rockets, who defeated the Red Wolves 63-44 in the GoDaddy Bowl in 2014 and 37-7 at home last season, had a lot of questions to answer in week one. Consider them nearly all answered. This was not an FCS-quality opponent that your Toledo Rockets defeated last week, this was an Arkansas State team that was finally healthy and full of Power Five transfers. So now, after a big 31-10 win, what were the biggest takeaways going forward and how does that effect season expectations?
Takeaway No. 1 - Candle Still Wants to Run to Setup the Pass
Just as Jason Candle has done since 2009 with the Toledo offense, it's run-first, pass-second, and it works. The Rockets ran the ball 45 times compared to passing just 31 times. Granted, they had the lead the entire game but the plan will be to run the ball this season with the deepest backfield that Toledo, you could argue, has ever seen.
Takeaway No. 2 - This Backfield is Something to Behold
The Toledo backfield is absolutely filthy. Sick. Ridiculous. Insert any type of positive adjective here to describe them. We obviously knew about Kareem Hunt, most knew about Terry Swanson, but some Rocket fans may not fully know the name of senior runningback, Damion Jones-Moore. However, get used to hearing him. Jones-Moore will split carries with Hunt and Swanson in the backfield. My question going into week one was would we see a fourth runningback get some carries, maybe an Art Thompkins. Despite Thompkins' talent, he's still young and the Rockets really only need the three-headed monster of Hunt, Swanson, and Jones-Moore.
In Jonesboro, 42 of Toledo's 45 carries were given to the three-headed monster and they produced. Swanson would struggle but he won't be held down throughout the season. This backfield is legit, folks. Prepare for stardom from this Toledo running game.
Takeaway No. 3 - Cody Thompson on Track to Top 2015
Cody Thompson had a stellar season in 2015, ranking third nationally with 22.3 yards per catch. This season, Thompson is on pace to top that already. Now that Alonzo Russell is gone, Thompson will lead the charge and is off to a great start in doing so. Thompson caught five passes for 174 yards, an average of nearly 35 yards per catch. One of the questions was how can Thompson get open now that Alonzo Russell isn't opposite of him anymore, well he answered that question. Thompson, with Corey Jones in the slot, can still get open on his own. Watch out for No. 25 this season.
Takeaway No. 4 - Logan Woodside Does the Unthinkable
Prior to Friday night's matchup, I was talking to some people about how Logan Woodside wouldn't throw for 300+ yards, simply because he isn't that kind of passer and is a game manager. However, Woodside proved me wrong, throwing for 371 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, good for a quarterback rating of 97.6. The Kentucky-native is ready and he proved that. Jason Candle talked about his leadership and how great Woodside was in fall camp, now he's producing on the field. He'll be great in 2016, making all of the right throws.
Takeaway No. 5 - Toledo Defense under Brian George is Solid
You knew Brian George was a quality defensive coordinator when he was at Kent State simply due to the lack of talent with the Golden Flashes as of recently. Despite that lack of talent, George still consistently had a top three defense in the Mid-American Conference. Now, he comes to Toledo where there are questions about the defense, particularly the defensive secondary but the Rockets will be just fine. Toledo allowed a late score to A-State on Friday and held an offense that we heard about all week from Red Wolves' fans to just ten points. The Rockets are solid all around defensively this season with a lot of depth.
Takeaway No. 6 - Watch No. 9 in Midnight Blue & Gold
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi wears No. 9 for Toledo and he is something to behold this season. Just a sophomore out of Texas, Adeniyi had 7.5 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack, truly creating havoc for the A-State offensive line. Adeniyi was all around the ball and is a big and a strong but yet quick and agile defensive end who will be difficult to take off the field this fall.
Granted, this was just one game. We understand that. However, it's important to note what the takeaways are from each game, especially week one. The Rockets had so many questions entering 2016 but they answered nearly all of them with the nice 31-10 win on opening weekend. On to Maine, you can watch for Toledo Scout's full-breakdown of Maine at Toledo within the next few days.