This week marks the return of the guest blogger Q&A. last week's podcast with Over the Pylon was a big success, and this week there is another quality MAC opponent blog to talk to. The writers of Let's Go Rockets have been in contact with us quite a bit, considering that the Rockets have been on the schedule three out of four years. They posted my answers to their questions yesterday, while their answers are as follows:
Hammer & Rails: The defense seems to have taken a major step forward since the Arizona game. Is this Coach Beckman's philosophy finally coming through?
Let's Go Rockets: We think Beckman's philosophy is definitely an influence on this defense. In the past few seasons, defense has obviously been an issue for the Rockets and coming out of last season, Beckman said the D would be a priority for work/improvement and recruiting. Even with the beating we took at the hands of Arizona, it was obvious that the defense had taken strides since last year, and that was showcased in our two following MAC games - against Ohio and WMU. It took some time for Beckman to get his defensive schemes to translate to success on the field - whether that is from trying to get upperclassmen to buy into the changes, or getting the type of recruits to run the system and getting them onto the field - but now that the defense has shaken off the rust, they seem to be really coming along. There is still plenty of room for improvement and that is something the defense needs to stay focused on throughout the season and into the next.
H&R: Would you say this team has been one of the most improved since week 1?
LGR: Absolutely. It takes strong character to open up the season full of optimism, energy and potential, end up outmatched and outplayed in week 1 on national television, and find your feet in week 2 to bounce back and play the way you're capable. Attribute that to the character of the players, the leadership of the upperclassmen, and the strong guidance of our coaches. The offense has been slower than the defense in finding it's identity this season, but the defense has tightened up it's play and afforded the offense the extra time to get in sync.
H&R: The short passing game was very successful against Purdue last year. Will we see more of it?
LGR: The short passing game is still a strength of the Rockets. I wouldn't expect Toledo to rely on that as much this season as they did in the past, but it is a key component of our game plan. We would like to see a more established running game as well.
H&R: What is Toledo's plan to stop Ryan Kerrigan, who is having a monster season?
LGR: A talent like Kerrigan's is tough to stop, period. Toledo will have to try and delay Kerrigan at the line and give Dantin enough time to throw the ball or hand it off to Thomas/Fluellen/Williams and get them out of the backfield before Kerrigan can drop the hammer. The Rockets have had some issues along the offensive line at times this season and with a force like Kerrigan's, our best bet will be to try and avoid and deflect as much as possible. I don't look for him to have a career day - but he'll be in our kitchen, for sure.
H&R: Finally, Toledo has a history of pulling stunning upsets against Purdue. How do you see one happening on Saturday?
LGR: If the defense plays the way they have in the last two games, we can keep the game really close. If Fluellen gets a bunch of carries and Page, Green, Noble and Stafford get the passes -- we have the ability to bring this one right down to the wire. If we can sneak this one by Purdue, it will certainly be by the nearest of margins.