Rocket Preview

The Western Michigan Broncos (1-3, 0-1 MAC) take on division rival Toledo (3-2, 2-0 MAC) at Waldo Stadium for the annual SouthWestFest on Saturday night at 7pm. The Broncos enter the game on the heels of a bye week that followed a disappointing loss to the Ball State Cardinals. Toledo enters the game following a blowout victory against the very same Cardinals.

"I don't want to say do or die but it is," said junior tight end Tony Scheffler.

"It is an extremely crucial game for where we're going to stand in the MAC," said starting quarterback Ryan Cubit.

"[We want to] give all the fans and everybody in the city of Kalamazoo something to cheer about," said senior linebacker Dan Steinau.

That do or die game that is crucial to the MAC standings and that could give fans in Kalamazoo something to cheer about is against a team the Broncos have only beaten twice in the last 15 years. In fact the last time the Broncos beat Toledo was the last season the Broncos finished with a winning record (2000).

"Those guys are tough," said Bronco head coach Gary Darnell of the Toledo Rockets. "They live tough and play tough and they execute."

Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski leads the Rockets, who have averaged 46.3 points in their last three games. Gradkowski tied his own school record for touchdowns in a game at six just last weekend against Ball State in a 54-14 win.

The Rocket passing offense that plays at a rate of 325.6 yards per game (fourth best in the nation) is facilitated by a no-huddle offense and completes 71.2% of their passing plays. "The amazing statistic to me is not how far they throw, but rather how many yards they get after the catch," said Darnell.

Making the big plays for the Rockets are a trio of receivers: Lance Moore, Kenny Higgins and Steve Odom who all have over 300 yards receiving and at least 3 touchdowns each.

On the ground the Rockets are expected to start junior running back Quinton Broussard in place of the injured Trinity Dawson for the second week in a row. Last weekend Broussard rushed for 136 yards on 17 carries including a 40-yard run in the third quarter.

Toledo does have one weakness to speak of. UT is dead last in the MAC in defense giving up 476.6 yards per game and giving up 37.8 points per game. That weakness does seem to be healing itself however as the Rockets have allowed fewer then 20 points to their last two opponents.

Can the Broncos step up their game to the next level and beat Toledo? "There's never been a doubt in anyone's mind since we started camp how good we are. We know we can compete with anyone in the MAC," said Cubit. "The talent is all there and we got everybody at the right spots and it's a simple matter of going out there and executing the way we know how to."

To come out with the win Darnell feels the Broncos will need to open up the big play offense fans have become accustomed to the past few seasons. "We haven't gotten the ball spread out as much as we have in the past," said Darnell. "We're going to have to try and do everything we can [to win]. We need to attack and not be passive."

Feldpausch Shuffle:

Sophomore safety Chad Feldpausch, younger brother of two-time team MVP Jason, has been moved around the line-up the past two weeks. Following the apparent departure of Oseloka Keys due to academic troubles Feldpausch was moved into the 2-deep as back up to Scooter McIntosh at strong safety.

Now with injuries to Mark Hardy and Kevin Ford at the WIP position that are not healing as fast as expected, Chad Feldpausch is now working with the first team at the WIP and is the projected starter at that position.

Broncos Illustrated Top Stories