Monday Media Session Recap

Rocket Digest Reporter Karl Rofkar was in attendance for Coach Beckman's weekly press conference on Monday. After defeating FIU 41-31 last week to improve to 2-2 on the season, the Rockets now turn their attention to MAC play and the Ball State Cardinals this Saturday. Read on for comments from UT head coach Tim Beckman.

The University of Toledo Rockets flew into Miami, FL with revenge on their minds after an upset loss to Florida International University last year in the Glass Bowl. In that game, the Rockets self-destructed in the 2nd half as FIU came storming back to win convincingly.

This time, the Rockets wanted to start fast but chose to defer after winning the coin toss. The Rocket defense was up to the task, forcing 3-and-outs on the first two FIU possessions.

"Offensively, we started out the way we thought we needed to, especially on the road," said first year head coach Tim Beckman. "We were able to take the ball down, establish the run, be able to control the game with controlling the passing attack. I credit the seniors, and I credit the coaching staff for having the team ready to play the way they needed to."

Coach Beckman volunteered that special teams were not up to his expectations, and promised changes this week to try to correct those shortcomings. "The special teams are not even close to where they need to be and there will be changes this week," said Beckman. "We've got to put some pressure on where we kick the football. We've got things lined up to where we want to kick it, and then if it's not kicked there we get in a little bit of trouble, and that's exactly what happened. You can't do that with a great returner like they have, and he ended up costing us."

To emphasize the importance of special teams play, Beckman said the "8 of the touchdowns that have been scored against our defense have been because the opponents have had the ball inside the 50, because of special teams, not because of the turnovers that we've had on offense. It must be addressed, it's got to be corrected, and we've got to correct it immediately."

He didn't place all the special teams problems on the kickers either. Beckman said the Rockets' receivers are letting too many balls bounce instead of catching them, and that's costing them yards. "We all have to get better at (those things) and it has to be coached better."

Coach also took the blame for one turnover, the interception right before halftime which led to an FIU field goal. He said he might have been too aggressive when we could have just went in and ran the football… "But we're a fast-paced offense and we want to make sure we do whatever we can to put points on the board. Aaron threw an interception there of course, but credit the defense for coming in and holding them to a field goal. That was a crucial point in the game, we felt, and our defense stepped up."

Beckman named Skylar Constant as the defensive player of the game, Eric Page as the offensive player of the game, and on special teams he named Tyrell Willis. The Big Stick Award went to true freshman Danny Molls, who coach said graded out the highest of any of the linebackers. The last game award was the Ironman Award, which goes to the hardest worker/overachiever for the game, and that was DaJuane Collins.

When questioned about the specific changes he might make to special teams, Coach said that it would be personnel. "We've got to find somebody that can place punts where we need to place punts," said Beckman. "I think Alex did a nice job at the end. He doesn't kick it as deep as we'd like always, but he at least places it where we need it."

Regarding Alex Steigerwald, Coach said he's been doing a great job kicking field goals and extra points, "but what you guys don't see is his leadership. As a senior and as a kicker, he's done an outstanding job of that. You know, the kickoffs are sporadic, he doesn't always get them where we need them, but kicking it through the uprights, he had probably as good a game [as I've seen] since I've been here."

There is a bit of frustration in finding the punter to do what the coaches are asking. "We get it done in practice, and then we get in a game and we can't do it. So we're going to compete for it again, it will be whoever ends up being the guy who can do it." Beckman mentioned both Ryan Casano and Aaron Opelt as options in the search for a punter.

That of course led to a question about Opelt punting in the FIU game. "We felt that it would keep Hilton off the field, and that's exactly what it did because they couldn't substitute. It kept him on the sideline, and the first one we downed the ball inside the 10…So we just thought it was something our offense could do to keep them off the field."

The Rockets, as a team, are excited to get the MAC portion of the schedule started. The Rocket coach calls this stretch the Drive for Five as the Rockets have 5 games in October after a tough September. Of course, you can't talk about starting the MAC schedule at Ball State without talking about the hex the Rockets have been fighting for years there.

"I was talking with Mo Hill as we were walking over to Downtown Coaches' over at Savage and we talked about it," said Coach Beckman. "He has not beaten Ball State and that's one of the things we need to do as a senior class – defeat some of these teams we haven't defeated. So of course that's one of the goals and one of the things we talked about as a team. We understand that this is a new era, we're changing things up…Our goals are ‘one at a time' and Ball State is the first up."

Coach Beckman gave a nice rundown on his impressions of Ball State, acknowledging that they have a lot of new faces, but also that they have some talent with an outstanding running back, a good looking freshman linebacker out of Cleveland Glenville High School, and also pointed out that their new quarterback played pretty well against Auburn, in spite of having four new faces on the offensive line.

He's giving the Cards the respect they earned by whipping our butts the last 3 years while preparing his family for paybacks.

Injury Update: Isaiah Ballard will be back; Danny Noble is still questionable, and Coach says doubtful, and Robert Bell is still out. Noble is out with an ankle injury, the extent of which they staff hopes to know this evening. Bell's is a knee injury and no further information was given on that.

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