Rockets Beat Michigan!

The University of Toledo became the first Mid-American Conference school to beat Michigan, with a 13-10 victory Saturday afternoon at the Big House. Toledo outplayed and outcoached the Wolverines in what is probably the biggest win in Toledo football history, over the winningest program in the history of college football.

Toledo's Rockets went to Ann Arbor Saturday to face the Wolverines riding a three game losing streak and rumblings for the coach's head. At 1-4, the Rockets were reeling from two poor performances at home, and it was hard to imagine the game being competitive. While Michigan has been struggling a bit themselves this season, there was little reason to believe that they would dispatch the Rockets quickly. Somebody forgot to tell the Rockets that they were going to be blown out. All they did was go into one of the biggest stadiums in the country, against one of college football's most storied programs, and go head to head for 60 minutes, and walking out to the thunderous cheers of Rocket fans, a 13-10 win in hand.

The Midnight Blue and Gold kicked off to start the game, the ball sailing out of bounds and giving Michigan the ball at their own 40. It looked all too familiar. Yet the Rocket defense produced a 3-and-out and the Rockets moved the ball from their own 4 to the 49 before being forced to punt. But a punt never happened. Niether did the fake, as an errant snap sent the ball back to the UT 33 where Michigan took over. Six consecutive rushing plays put UM at the UT 6 with 1st and goal. QB Steven Threet threw to his tight end, Toledo Whitmer grad Kevin Koger. What Threet didn't see was UT safety Tyrell Herbert, who used Koger's big body as a shield between him and Threet. Herbert stepped in front of the pass one yard deep in the endzone and headed down the west sideline for Toledo's first score of the game, setting both UT and UM records for a pick six.

Michigan would knot the score at 7 two possessions later on a 27 yard scoring pass to Brandon Minor, then scored again on their next possession with a 26 yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead. Toledo chewed up 5:03 on the ensuing drive, covering 75 yards in 11 plays before settling for Alex Steigerwald field goal attempt from 21 yards out. But Steigerwald missed wide to the right, and the 1st half scoring was done. For the Wolverines, so was the 2nd half. Toledo's defense would hold their hosts scoreless in the 2nd half, while scoring 2 field goals to pull off one of the biggest upsets, and one of the biggest wins, in school history.

This game had everything a football fan could want in a game, except an explosive offensive scoring show. The Rockets offense was held scoreless, settling for 2 field goals, while UM had one TD. But the visitors also played the game with heart and fire. QB Aaron Opelt passed for 257 yards on 33 of 50 (66%) and had no interceptions. That stat is one of the keys of the game. The Rockets took care of the football Saturday with no interceptions, no fumbles, while claiming 3 interceptions against the Wolverines. And though the offense couldn't get into the endzone, they controlled to football, kept field position most of the game, rolled up enough first downs to keep drives going. Trailing by about a minute and a half in time of possession at half time, the Rockets owned the 3rd quarter, holding the ball for 10:11 to Ums 4:49. Toledo added to its advantage by nearly another 2 minutes in the 4th quarter. The big stat in the TOP column is 3rd down conversion: the Rockets converted 8 of 18, and held the Wolverines to 3 of 13 for the game, though the home team managed 2 for 2 on 4 down tries.

Toledo's defense was inspired from the opening kick. Herbert's pick 6 only further inspired his teammates. It was the first of 2 picks for Herbert, and a 3 came late in the 4th quarter when true freshman Mark Singer, replacing a cramping Herbert, came up with the football at the UT 27 with 3:44 left on the clock. In between, bone jarring hits (Brandon Minor was hospitalized last night following a collision at the goal line on his touchdown reception), a few tackles for loss, a pass broken up all combined to help Toledo's cause. The defensive line combined for 19 tackles, LB Archie Donald had 12, including 7 solos, and Barry Church chipped in with 9, 4 of them solo.

Meanwhile, the offense was rolling up yards and spreading the field with perhaps the best play calling of the year. If one looks at the stat sheet, it appears Toledo didn't run the ball very well Saturday, totaling only 70 net yards on 22 carries. But UTs running back combined for 5.6 yards per carry, led by DaJuane Collins at 6.5 ypc. It appeared early on that the Rockets intended to throw the ball all over the field and make Michigan work. Opelt completed passes to 7 receivers in the game. It only SEEMED like senior Nick Moore was the only receiver out there as he made catch after tough catch, churned out yards after the catch, and kept the chains moving throughout the contest.

There were no offensive touchdowns again this week, which has to be a concern. But the offense WAS productive, and it took care of the ball. The defense was solid all afternoon, giving up only a few long plays, and holding the Wolverines scoreless in the 2nd half. The coaches often talk about being in a position to win. On this October Saturday, under a blazing sun, the Toledo coaching staff put out one of their best game plans of the year. With few exceptions, the players executed that game plan extremely well. And the result was what is perhaps the biggest win in school history to date. Hail to the victors…the Toledo Rockets.

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