Get to know an opponent: Toledo

The Bulls return home to take on the Rockets

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Coming off of a 30-27 loss to Kent State, the Bulls return home to Amherst to take on the University of Toledo Wednesday.

The Rockets are 6-4 following a 31-28 loss to Northern Illinois.

Toledo went 3-1 in non-conference play, with wins over Murray State, Colorado State and BYU, and a loss to Kentucky. The 2019 Mid-American Conference Media Preseason Poll projected the Rockets to finish first in the MAC West.

Buffalo is coming off of one of its ugliest losses in recent memory. The Bulls led the Golden Flashes 27-6 with under eight minutes to play. But Kent State converted on an on-side kick and blocked a punt to complete the largest fourth-quarter comeback in the FBS this season.

Buffalo is 5-5 entering the Toledo game. The Bulls defeated Robert Morris, Temple, Akron, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. They lost to Penn State, Liberty, Miami (OH), Ohio and Kent State so far this season.

The Bulls' bowl hopes — at one point seemingly guaranteed — now hang by a thread.

Here’s what to expect when the Bulls take on the Rockets Wednesday:

COACH: Jason Candle, 34-17, fourth season at Kent State

LOOKING BACK

The 2018 Rockets went 7-6 and finished in fourth place in the MAC West standings. 

They received an invite to the Bahamas Bowl, which they lost 35-32 to Florida International.

Quarterback Eli Peters completed 55.1% of his passes for 1,837 yards, 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He split playing time with Mitchell Guadagni, who completed 57.5% of his passes for 1,053 yards, 13 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

The strength of the team rested in its receiving game. Junior wide receiver Diontae Johnson was a third-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, after catching 49 passes for 761 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was also named first-team All-MAC as both a receiver and punt return specialist. Receivers Jon’Vea Johnson and Cody Thompson both eclipsed the 600-yard mark and were named to an All-MAC team.

The Rockets averaged 227.9 yards passing per game, ranking at No. 69 in Division I-A.

Toledo ranked second with 10 All-MAC selections, including down lineman Tuzar Skipper and defensive back Josh Teachey.

Linebacker Richard Olekanma led the way with 86 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. Skipper was signed by the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent, after recording 60 total tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Cornerback Ka’dar Hollman was a sixth-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers. He recorded 43 total tackles and an interception.

On Oct. 20, 2018, the Bulls defeated the Rockets, 31-17, at the Glass Bowl. Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson rushed for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bulls' quarterback Tyree Jackson was erratic, as he completed 54% of his passes for 326 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.


Courtesy of Toledo Athletics Communication

Toledo sophomore defensive end Jamal Hines rushes the quarterback during a 45-0 victory over Murray State.


LOOKING FORWARD

Toledo has six wins, with two against larger programs.

Guadagni has completed 64.8% of his passes for 1,099 passing yards, 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He is third on the team with 332 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns.

Toledo had 12 players named to the Athlon Sports MAC Football 2019 All-Conference Team, including center Bryce Harris and defensive lineman Jamal Hines, who were both named to the first-team.

On the other side of the ball, linebacker Jordan Fisher leads the team with 77 total tackles. Safety Saaed Holt has 65 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.

The Rockets, coming into the Buffalo contest, have played in five games that have been decided by one score or less.

The Rockets are 3-3 against conference opponents, and currently trail MAC-West leader Western Michigan by two games, with just two games left.

BOTTOM LINE

After the Bulls’ fourth-quarter collapse against Kent State, they need to win to qualify for a bowl game. They will return home to face a tough Toledo team that has been potent in close contests, which Buffalo has struggled with. It should be an entertaining game, but unlike other weeks, there is no margin for error for the Bulls, who are on the brink of bowl qualification — but also elimination.

Justin Weiss is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at justin.weiss@ubspectrum.com.

JUSTIN WEISS


Justin Weiss is an asst. sports editor at The Spectrum