Friday, September 11, 2009

Rocky Mountain Low

I've now watched perhaps 15 or so football games this season: some real good ones, some total snoozers. And, amazingly, perhaps the most thorough beatdown I've watched so far in this young season was the Toledo Rockets of the MAC taking apart the Colorado Buffaloes of the vaunted Big Twelve. Now, I did watch Cincinnati demolish Rutgers last weekend, and that definitely deserves to be in the conversation, but this was far more of a surprise and more damning to the losing squad. About 40 minutes into this game, Toledo was up 30-3 and Colorado had shown few signs of life. Now, the final was 54-38, but that's including two meaningless backdoor TDs by Colorado and a 4yd TD drive following a UT fumbled kickoff, and even somehow subtracting those 3 TDs doesn't really do justice to how one-sided this game really was.

There are a number of interesting angles to look at regarding this game, but let's start with this head-scratcher: how the hell did Colorado agree to play a Friday night game at Toledo five days after their opener against in-state rival Colorado State? I know Miami of Ohio backed out of a scheduled game sort of late in the process leaving the Buffs in need of a game, but how exactly did Toledo convince Dan Hawkins to come to the Glass Bowl? Now, I'm glad they did agree to it, because this type of thing is not only good for the Rockets, and the MAC, but college football in general. A big conference school deigning to visit somewhere like Toledo, Ohio? Definitely far more compelling that a game against Charleston Southern or Southeast Missouri State that is little more than a paycheck for each school involved.

Now, not only did Colorado agree to visit Toledo, they also let Toledo supply the refs. And while I don't think the refs had any real effect on the outcome of the game, I thought I did catch the umpire smirk a few times when calling a crushing penalty against the Buffs bringing back a first down or more.

Aside from that, how is it that Toledo actually looks to be stocked with more talent at more positions than Colorado? The Buffs just landed Darrell Scott last offseason, the top high school running back recruit in the nation. And you know what? I think I'd rather have Toledo's back DaJuane Collins. Just a few months ago, Colorado seemed set at WR with Scotty McKnight and Josh Smith, not to mention Andre Simmons and tight end Riar Geer. Smith has since transferred but while the others remain, I think Toledo probably has more pass-catching weapons than Colorado, even with their best receiver Stephen Williams nursing an injured shoulder and watching from the sidelines. Sophomore Kenny Stafford, fresman Eric Page and sophomore Danny Noble (now converted to tight end) all sport excellent hands and athleticism to boot. Further, I think Toledo's strong safety Barry Church is probably better than anybody on Colorado's defense. And, gimme Toledo's Aaron Opelt over Colorado's Cody Hawkins any day of the week. Opelt is not only a better passer than Hawkins, but he is more than capable of making plays with his legs, a feature Hawkins does not have.

And, while we're on the topic of Hawkins, I'm assuming that Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins will be spending Saturday working on his resume. I thought he was terrible last week when Colorado State manhandled them, but tonight was atrocious. I can't imagine that he will be back next year, and frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if he was watching Colorado's November games on television.

Now, I don't want to end on that type of negative note, especially after watching that surprising game. We can spend the next week talking about all the things Colorado did wrong, but Toledo did quite a few things right. First-year head coach Tim Beckman has some talent on the team, and his team has definitely shown improvement from last year, and improvement even from week one. It looks like Beckman is on his way toward reviving the Rocket's fortunes following the recent scandals in Toledo and bringing the Rockets back to relevance in the MAC.

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