Brian's Blog: UT at Ball State

The latest edition of Brian's Blog is ready for MAC play to begin. After opening the season with a tough non-conference schedule, the 2-2 Toledo Rockets travel to Muncie, IN for Saturday's contest against the Ball State Cardinals. It's early October, and it's that time of year for football, ghosts, gobblins, and even ill-advised Twitter posts. Read on for more.

Ahh, it's early October....one of my favorite times of the year. Leaves are starting to change colors, pumpkin pie is just around the corner, and the Toledo Rockets are entering conference play.

After a very difficult non-conference portion of the schedule, the Rocket football team is 2-2 with wins over Colorado and FIU. Tomorrow the Rockets open MAC play at Ball State. Ball State started out the season 12-0 last year before losing in the MAC Championship game and their bowl game. However, QB Nate Davis is now in the NFL and the Cardinals offense has struggled. They are 0-4 heading into MAC play this weekend.

Traditionally Toledo has strugged in Muncie against the Cardinals, but something tells me that the Muncie Curse will not show up Saturday afternoon.

Toledo senior QB Aaron Opelt is 2nd in the nation in passing yards with 1,282. He has thrown 9 touchdowns and run for three more in just four games played. Last season Opelt threw for just 2,176 yards and 12 TD's the entire season. He should surpass those totals within the next couple of games.

Senior running back DaJuane Collins is also having a big senior year with 360 yards rushing (6.5 ypc) and four touchdowns. Last year he had 700 yards rushing and five touchdowns for the entire season.

Add these two with the steady Stephen Williams (24 receptions for 331 yards and 2 TD's) and true freshman phenom Eric Page (26 receptions for 433 yards and 4 TD's) and you have the making of a very powerful offense.

Then you put together an offensive line that has given up just three sacks through four games, with three of those games being against BCS opponents. Next put together an attacking defense that has improved every game, and also is one of the best in the country and forcing turnovers (8 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries).

All of those pieces give you a football team that is ready to make a run at the MAC West Title and a MAC Championship.

Before the season started, no one outside of the football program would have been thinking this kind of turnaround was possible, but it is. A good mix of seniors with leadership skills and young talented players have ignited the Rocket fanbase into thinking that this team is a contender in the MAC West Division.

It all started last December when Tim Beckman was announced as the new head coach of the Toledo Rocket football program. He assembled a staff that had a good mix of experience and youth, but the key is the energy that this staff has. Add in Rick Court as the new Speed, Strength, and Conditioning Coach and you not only have the energy of the staff rubbing off on the players, but they are also faster and better conditioned.

Case in point was last weekend at FIU. It was a hot and humid evening in Miami, FL. Some of the FIU players were cramping up by halftime, and their defense seemed to wear down as the 2nd half went on. Toledo, on the other hand, did not show any signs of fatigue, nor did anyone cramp up for the Rockets. Tremendous job by Rick Court and his conditioning staff during the offseason.

So now, less than 24 hours from kickoff against the Ball State Cardinals. A much better Ball State team struggled to a 3-0 halftime lead over Toledo in the Glass Bowl last year. Then the Rockets tired and Ball State scored four touchdowns in the 2nd half. Something tells me that when the 4th quarter gets here tomorrow, Toledo will be better conditioned than Ball State. That just might make the difference in the game too.

And if losing to Ball State three years in a row was not enough motivation for the Rockets, Ball State running back MiQuale Lewis gave Toledo more motivation when he posted on his twitter account about the game. Here is what he said:

"getting ready for our homecoming game ... easy game against TOLEDO ROCKETS"

Oh, no you didn't Lewis. Really? What would possess you to say Toledo will be an easy game when you know it is going to get back to members of the UT football team? I can already see Barry Church and Archie Donald licking their chops.

Kickoff tomorrow is set for Noon ET. The game will air on ESPN Gameplan and ESPN Plus, and will be available online at espn360.com. For those Rocket fans not making the drive to Muncie, join us for a free chat in the new Rocket Digest Free Chat Room - Click Here to Chat.


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