Starting tonight, we will take a look at the next Jayhawk opponent every Thursday night. First up, the Toledo Rockets. I will break it up into a couple of parts, switching it up (possibly) from week-to-week.
The Kansas Jayhawks and the Toledo Rockets have met 3 times on the football field, with the Jayhawks winning two of those. We first beat the Rockets 30-7 in 1991 and followed that up with a 63-14 beating in 2004. However, last season didn't go as planned and the Rockets upset our Jayhawks 37-31 in OT. We made the trip to Ohio both last year and in 1991, with Saturday's game setting the home-game score even at 2 a piece.
What a week to start this feature out with. Our somewhat promising 2-0 start, and the good will that came with it, was demolished on a Friday night in Toledo, Ohio last season. A game in what basically defined our season, we gave up a 23-17 lead going into the 4th quarter. After falling behind 31-23, we came back and scored a TD with less than 4 minutes left on a TD pass to Dexton Fields and a 2-point conversion scamper by Kerry Meier. Oh yea, him. He struggled, to say the least, going 23-41 with 4 INT's and only 2 TD's (plus another one rushing on 19 carries). He also injured his shoulder on that fateful night, which would begin the QB carosuel which quickly defined our entire season. In a year which started out as an almost certain bowl year, the 'Hawks never got over the loss to the Rockets and was eventually the difference between going to a bowl and staying home.
The Rockets have struggled thus far this season, getting blown out against both the Purdue Boilermakers and the Central Michigan Chippewas. Their offense has played well thus far, scoring 24 points against Purdue and 31 points against the Chippewas, but their defense has been abysmal. They have given up 52 points each time out thus far, and are suceptible both through the air and on the ground. They gave up 244 yards both through the air and through the ground against Purdue, and against CMU they gave up 218 on the ground and (surprise) 244 yards through the air. We are a run-first offense right now, albeit not by much, so expect to see plenty of Brandon McAnderson, Jake Sharp and even Carmon Boyd-Anderson Saturday night. Regarding the passing game, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that Todd Reesing will throw for 244 yards. I believe in trends.
On the offensive side of the ball, it is tough to read. They have clearly been more successful through the air thus far, including 381 yards in the passing game against Central Michigan, but that likely has plenty to do with their defecits. In the Purdue game, with the game tight for much of the first half, they chose to run the ball with Jalen Parmele who put up pretty decent numbers (24 carries for 93 yards). Whatever they decide to do, our defense has played exceptional thus far and I am expecting more of the same Saturday. Sophomore Aaron Opeit is the guy to watch out for in the passing game, as he was the one who received the vast majority of playing time in last week's game.
We will get more specific in Saturday morning/afternoon's keys to the game, but there is one thing that sticks out. Don't repeat history. Another loss to Toledo would be demoralizing, even moreso this year after how we have played thus far this season. It would be a shame to lose all of that momentum by losing to a struggling MAC team, one who figures to occupy the lower half of the MAC standings. We need to do a couple things to do this...
1) Run the ball -- Their defense sucks, but I am guessing their rush defense is worse. Take a bad rushing defense, and add in Brandon McAnderson, Jake Sharp and freshman soon-to-be-phenom Carmon Boyd-Anderson and we will have a good offensive day.
2) Contine defensive dominance -- Our defense has played amazing well thus far, and it would be nice to see it continue. I don't expect these kind of performances once we hit Big 12 play, but another two weeks of near-shutouts would be fun to listen to.
For now, that is all. check back tomorrow for some more Toledo-related material...