September 11, 2011

Rockets give Bucks a much needed test before Miami

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Toledo came into Ohio Stadium having beaten a school from a Bowl Championship Series conference the past five years. They also entered Saturday's game having never scored against Ohio State in two prior games.

One thing was clear right from the onset; the Rockets would not be intimidated.

They didn't care about their past - 87-0 against the Buckeyes - or Ohio State's past history with in-state foes - 43-0-1 since 1921. Toledo had one thing on its mind: winning.

"We probably we got some respect,'' Toledo's Malcolm Riley said. "But that wasn't what we were trying to get. We were trying to get a win.''

Toledo took an early 15-7 lead by doing things Ohio State has trouble stopping. It dinked and dunked its way down field, made plays on special teams and busted a couple big yardage gainers. The Rockets also used trickeration, converted a two-point conversion on a pass by Eric Page.

"They have some great skill players," defensive lineman John Simon said of Toledo. "They're a great team. They knew they were going to score some points on us."

Page was the Buckeyes' nemesis all afternoon, piling up 145 receiving yards, including a 66-yard touchdown reception. He also returned kicks and punts - three in all - for 73 yards. His longest return of the day, a 42-yarder on a kickoff, set up a short field for Toledo, but it wasn't able to turn it into points.

The Ohio State offensive line also experienced difficulties. The Rockets gave opposing teams a blue print for how to stop the Buckeyes. And it will surely be used.

"It's hard to give you a complete assessment until you actually watch," Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell said. "But I know Toledo was doing a very good job. They know us well, and I think just hearing some of the O linemen think there were 12 guys in there at times. But they're going to do that. They're going to crowd up the box and test you that way. You know, we know there are some ways that we've got to make sure we get better at it."

The officials were an area where Toledo ran into trouble. It was penalized 14 times for 102 yards, while Ohio State was flagged just twice for 13 yards. Some of the flags were justified but other looked questionable. The Rockets, however, proved to be an undisciplined team.

For the most part, the two teams were evenly matched. Ohio State didn't play its best but neither did Toledo. And the Rockets got no help from the officials.

"There is no doubt that we beat ourselves," starting quarterback Austin Dantin said. "We had 12 or 13 penalties, a missed field goal and another missed opportunity on a field goal. It is inexcusable."

Dantin was 14-of-26 for 155 yards and one touchdown. He also gained 12 yards on the ground.

"We came here in a hostile environment against a top 25 team," he said. "It is huge for us to come out here and compete like this. But we have a tall test ahead of us next week with Boise State at home so that's what we are looking forward to now."

Head coach Tim Beckman knew the miscues could cost the Rockets. But he wasn't chalking the game up as a moral victory.

"We didn't play well enough to win this football game. There were too many mistakes on our part that need to be rectified. We have to, as a staff and as a football team, make sure that when we're playing in games like this, if we want to take this program back to that championship level, we must make sure that we succeed in those plays that we gave up today. When we're playing in games like this, we have to make sure we're playing all three phases of the game to be as successful as we can be.

"We come here, and our goal is to win. That's what we came to do. We came to win the football game. Be there in the fourth quarter, and give yourself the chance to win the football game. We did not succeed in that; we did not achieve what we wanted to achieve today."

Historically, Ohio State has hand just a handful of games against Mid-American Conference opponents even be competitive. The Buckeyes knew coming into the game, though, that Toledo wasn't your normal MAC team. The Rockets piled up eight wins last season and clobbered a good New Hampshire team in Week 1.

"This whole week everyone outside of the team has been talking about how we're going to blow them out," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "But we as a team knew it wasn't going to be so easy. They obviously showed their strengths and played a great game against us."

With a trip to Miami looming, a test for a young and inexperienced team was not a disservice. It is what you learn and how you apply the changes that matters, though. A lot will be learned of Fickell and the team as a whole on Sept. 17.


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