Miami Game Recap

The University of Toledo hosted the Miami Redhawks in the Glass Bowl tonight in a showdown of two struggling 2-8 teams. It was cold and windy, 25 degrees at kickoff with a 15 mph wind. In the end, redshirt freshman Morgan Williams carried the ball 28 times for a school record 330 yards and 3 TD's to lead Toledo to a 42-14 victory.

The University of Toledo hosted the Miami Redhawks in the Glass Bowl tonight in a showdown of two struggling 2-8 teams. It was cold and windy, 25 degrees at kickoff with a 15 mph wind. It featured two teams that many believe have underperformed this season. And the Rockets were 0-4 at home on the year. Their record alone almost guaranteed a sparse turnout, and the cold made it dramatic. Attendance was listed as a dismal 12,251, and many of those were of the paid-but-not-present variety. But those present were treated to possibly the best performance by a Rocket football team in a year or more.

The big story of the game, of course, is the rushing record set by Morgan Williams. The redshirt freshman ran wild on the Redhawks, carrying the ball 28 times for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 4th-best-ever 86 yarder in the 2nd quarter. Williams' total surpassed the 304 yard single game mark held by Casey McBeth since 1994.

Williams did it with a mix of strength, balance, and speed, combined with tremendous offensive line play. Williams final score for the night, a 14 yard run off right tackle, was a thing of beauty. The offensive line pushed left, opening a huge hole to the right. Williams hit the burners and was off to the races. The only question was whether a Miami defender 5 yards deep in the endzone was going to be able to come up to stop him short.

Williams also had a TD run of 8 yards in the first quarter, and followed it up with a burst of 86 yards in the 2nd. That TD run was 3rd longest in UT history, and 4th longest running play. The UT back showed an eye for finding the hole, hit the crease and just accelerated past the defenders into the secondary; from there it was a footrace to the endzone which Morgan won. On the opening series of the 2nd half, Williams nearly had another long TD run, only to be stopped at the 5 yard line. A Miami defender dove at his feet around the 15 yard line, causing him to stumble, but he kept his feet and started accelerating again, only to be caught by an 2nd defender, Joey Hudson, coming on an angle.

On the following play, QB Aaron Opelt ran a play-action, the tossed the ball to a reversing Robin Bailey. The Miami defense bit on the play action fake, closing the right side of the Rocket attack. Bailey went around left end untouched into the endzone, a truly beautiful play. QB Aaron Opelt said after the game that Morgan did some unbelievable things out there, saying "he's got that breakaway speed. A couple times I thought they had him, and he proved me wrong. He was out there making plays when you should be making plays. He played awesome."

Williams' performance will no doubt overshadow most everything else in this game, but he wasn't the whole story. The UT defense played an outstanding game from start to finish, limiting the Redhawks to 75 yards rushing and only 271 yards of total offense. Broken down by the number of plays they ran, and it comes out to 3.92 yards per play over the entire game, including a 4th quarter that saw the visitors forced to throw on every down.

The defensive line managed to get pressure on QB Daniel Raudabaugh, the corners and safeties blanketed the receivers, and the linebackers did a great job of both run support and pass coverage. A different wrinkle observed in the game was the cornerbacks playing tight on the receivers at the line of scrimmage. Raudabaugh was often forced to scramble and make poor throws as a result of his targets being covered.

The Rockets also captured 2 errant passes, the first a leaping tip by Tyrrell Herbert that he climbed a ladder to get to, knocking the ball into the air and coming down with it himself, returning it for 8 yards to the Miami 40. Three plays and 42 seconds later, the Rockets capitalized with an Aaron Opelt sneak from the one set up by Morgan Williams' 25 yard carry to the one. On that play, Williams was hit as he tried to reach the left front corner of the endzone. His foot hit the pylon, but the ball was to the outside and never crossed the goal line. An official review upheld the call, placing the ball at the MU 1 yard line.

In all, the Rockets forced 4 turnovers – a 2nd interception by Kenny Veal at UTs 18 in the 4th quarter – and 2 fumbles, one by Barry Church in the first quarter and the other by Myshan Veasley-Pettis at midfield on a botched Miami punt return in the 4th quarter.

Pettis also had a nice pass breakup in the 4th. Defending a deep throw at the Toledo 5, Pettis got position on the receiver and made a play for the ball, turning the receiver into a defender to knock the ball out and save a 3rd interception.

The Rockets weren't perfect, of course. Kick-offs still resulted in some large return yardage. And there was the missed Alex Steigerwald 27 yard field goal in the 1st quarter.

Aaron Opelt's passing wasn't particularly sharp, but adequate. Fortunately, on this cold windy night in the Glass Bowl, the Rockets did many more things right and came away with their first win at home in this disappointing season.

Opelt looked a little surprised when he was told in the post-game that BG lost tonight. He was then asked how they were going to get focused for next week and not get too excited. His reply was simple: "It's BG Week. That's all you can say. BG Week." And so it is.

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