Rockets Focus on Chippewas

Rocket Digest reporter Karl Rofkar had a chance to talk with Coach Amstutz and a couple of players at Monday's media session. Read on to here comments from Coach Amstutz, RB DaJuane Collins, and QB Aaron Opelt on last week's game and this week's matchup with Central Michigan.

I had a chance to talk with Coach Amstutz and a couple of players on Monday. It was obvious that talking about the terrible day in DeKalb wouldn't do anyone any good, so we focused on the upcoming contest with two-time defending champs Central Michigan.

Naturally, Coach Amstutz has nothing but praise for the Chips as they are undefeated in league play, and their loss to Purdue is at least deceptive, as the Chips outperformed the Boilermakers in nearly every stat except the score.

Tom says he's "really looking forward to the game. The #2 quarterback threw the ball all over the field, so it's going to be a real exciting game." Brian Brunner threw for 346 yards on 20 of 28 passing, with 1 td and I int, replacing all-MAC qb Brian LeFevour, who is out with an injury and listed as questionable for this week. Toledo's Aaron Opelt went down in the 4th quarter against NIU, but appears healthy and talks like he'll be playing Saturday.

While CMUs offense relies quite a bit on the pass, LeFevour is also their leading rusher on the year. Coach Amstutz said that it appeared that the Chips altered their game plan a little bit with Brunner in and "threw the ball a little bit more." To slow the Chips, Amstutz says "we're going to have to step up our performance, play with our pads low, play good tough football. We're going to have to be a better tackling team and play with more consistency."

Offensively, the staff is looking for a good mix in their game plan, mixing in the run and the pass, and "get in the endzone. We're the most successful when we're able to run and pass both."

DaJuane Collins is fighting through an ankle injury that is frustrating him a great deal. He's been receiving treatments, including icing and stretching, to try to speed the process, but in the meantime, most of the running duties have fallen to Morgan Williams.

Collins said the practices have been tough, they've been practicing hard, but for whatever reason, they haven't been playing as well on game days, and that is their focus this week. "We just have to come out and play with passion, with fire. Sometimes it seems like guys just give up, or are not trying their hardest. We've just got to come out with that hunger."

Asked about the effect of losing Desmond Marrow on the opening kickoff, he said "it definitely played a big factor, to see your starting corner go down on the opening kickoff, it definitely hurts the team morale a little bit, but we should have rallied around that. We hope Desmond gets back from his injury soon."

About Central, Collins said "they're 2 time defending champs, it's going to be great for us to come in here and knock them off their horse. They're undefeated in the MAC, they're just coming off a big win off Western Michigan, so they're going to come in and be fired up and ready to go, so we've got to play Toledo football for 4 quarters." Collins feels CMU is going to be a great test for the Rockets. Offensively, Collins says "we've got to get back to the basics. We've got to pound ‘em out, grind ‘em out, run the football, use the running game to open up the passing game. We've got to take one play at a time, yard by yard, not go for the big play every down."

Talking with Aaron Opelt, I suggested we talk a little about last Saturday and then we'd move on, to which he replied "that's exactly what we're gonna do. It was a tough game for us. They had a lot of excitement out there and I don't think we really matched it. I think, offensively, we did what we had to on offense at times, but I think we have to get in the red zone more often and punch more points in."

Opelt echoed Collins thoughts on losing Marrow, but added that "that's what those guys backing him up are for. They got to be ready to go when that happens, be excited to be out there. I thought the young guys came out and played hard, but it's hard to lose Desmond Marrow."

Regarding CMU, Opelt believes Coach Rose and the defense will do a good job with a good game plan, and offensively, "we just have to come out and execute the game plan. We've got skill players out there to make plays. We've just got to start doing it."

Chips DE Frank Zombo leads the team with 12.5 tackles for loss this season, and at 6'4", 259lbs is going to be a challenge to the offensive line to keep Opelt safe. "I think that's a good task for our guys up front. I think they'll be ready for it. The Oline has got to be excited to go out and face a competitor like that. They've played well most part of the season."

With 2 losses in the MAC, the Rockets chances of winning the West division are all but gone, but it's obvious their coach and a couple of key players are not ready to give this season up. Look for a refocused offense this Saturday, and a much more aggressive defense.

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