After a slow start to the season, the Toledo Rockets have won two in a row and three of their last four games to improve to 4-5 on the season. I'm not sure many people would have believed me a month ago if I would have told them that the Rockets would be looking to improve to a .500 record when they host Eastern Michigan Saturday night, but here we are wondering if this team is finally starting to turn the corner.
The Rockets set a new Mid-American Conference record last weekend with 812 yards of total offense on their way to a 70-21 spanking of the Huskies of Northern Illinois. Sophomore quarterback Aaron Opelt has his best game of his career, completing 22 of 28 passes for 387 yards with four touchdowns through the air and one rushing touchdown.
Senior running back Jalen Parmele and sophomore running back DaJuane Collins both rushed for over 100 yards, and junior wide receiver Nick Moore caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
This Saturday will be a true test for the Rocket offense though. The #1 scoring offense in the MAC will go up against the #3 scoring defense in the MAC when the high-powered Rocket offense meets the high-flying Eastern Michigan defense. The Rockets are leading the MAC in scoring with 34.8 points per game and in total offense with 449.1 yards per game.
The Eastern Michigan Eagle defense technically did not give up any points to Western Michigan last week in beating the Broncos 19-2, as WMU's only points were scored by their defense on a safety. Eastern Michigan forced six turnovers in the game, and they have been doing it all season. They are 2nd in the MAC in turnover margin, and tied with Toledo for the most turnovers at 23 total.
When Eastern Michigan has the ball it will be the exact opposite. The Eagles are 10th in the MAC in scoring offense (20.2 ppg), while Toledo is last in the MAC in scoring defense (40.4 ppg). Eastern Michigan is also 12th in total offense, only Akron is worse, and Toledo is 11th in the MAC in total defense.
So it will be strength against strength and weakness against weakness when the Rockets and Eagles meet Saturday night. However, there just might be a difference maker.
Toledo's Jalen Parmele is 2nd in the MAC in rushing and 5th in the country with 1,138 yards, which translates to 126.4 yards rushing per game. In the last five games, Jalen has rushed for 817 yards (163.4 ypg). Jalen is also 2nd in the MAC in kick returns, averaging 29.1 yards per return and scoring one touchdown. This all equates to #1 in the MAC in all-purpose yards, averaging 198 yards per game.
So the question Saturday night will be if the Eastern Michigan defense can slow down Jalen Parmele? And if they do, will Aaron Opelt step up with another great performance against a defense keying on the run?
Don't forget that Saturday's game will be the last home game of the season and the last home game of their collegiate careers for 13 seniors. They are DL Bernard Faithful, OL John Greco, WR Andrew Hawkins, LB Greg Hay, TE Chris Hopkins, P Brett Kern, K Mike Krispinsky, DL Nick Lawrence, RB Jalen Parmele, OL David Perkins, DL Tyree Pollard, RB Joel Shreve, and WR David Washington. Three other seniors are out for the season with injuries and applying to the NCAA for medical hardships to come back next year. They are DL Sean Williamson, CB Nigel Morris, and FS Tyrrell Herbert.
Eastern Michigan Game Preview
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