Wow. I know that was a road game against a MAC school and probably should be expected, but that is what makes tonight's events so astounding. This was me through with this expected of us and we actually came through with this performance. Let's list what went wrong for us tonight:
- We had two fumbles early on, one in the red zone.
- We missed a 45-yard field goal by inches.
Really that's it. So much else went right and that is what is shocking. The defense played very, very well in stuffing their running game. We started generating some serious pressure once we built a lead, we forced some turnovers (including a pick by Torri Williams that was absolutely wonderful to see), and we dominated both sides of the line. This is so refreshing to see because we weren't able to do this against anyone last year, not even Indiana State. We were in a close game early on, but we stayed the course and actually began to exert our will against a team.
What I liked the most was the fact we actually used our running game and played with the quarterback under center more often. After the first couple of drives we settled in and pushed them around with our superior size. Sheets and Taylor both nearly got more than 100 yards tonight, and that will be important to try and replicate as the season goes on. Most importantly, replacing Nwaneri and Otto on the line was not a problem at all tonight. We were able to do what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it tonight.
We were able to mix things up tonight and even overcome our traditional slow start. Seven different players scored touchdowns for us tonight, and we not only won all areas of the game, but dominated each. After Toledo tied things up at 14 we were able to stay focused, get back on track, and take total control where in the past we would have folded up.
I know we should have dominated tonight, but I wasn't expecting to and certainly not by this much. I never thought we were that much better than Toledo and I felt their home field would be a big advantage for them, but taking the crowd out of the game by halftime was huge. It appears in the offseason we learned to finally recover from a bit of adversity, as in the past Toledo's early touchdown on the bounce, both fumbles, and our slow start would have caused us to come unglued.
I was also impressed with Chris Summers, who even though he missed a long field goal, finally got a make and hopefully that will begin to turn things around. I know a miss is a miss, but at least it was only by a few inches instead of way wide like in the past. Plus his make was a 44-yarder, showing he still has some range. He's not perfect yet, but I think it is obvious he has improved quite a bit. Until he shows it on the field anything we get from him is a bonus, but he did look better tonight.
Most people outside of the program will rightfully say that we can't take too much away from this because it was against a team from the MAC, but from those that have been fans of the program know better. Toledo is far from a slouch at home, even last year when they had their first losing season in 13 years. They always play teams tough in the glass bowl, and we were able to blow them out. We even had a little bit of the attitude I talked about before the game. I can't believe we played that well, and I don't know what else to say.
The whole demeanor of the team appeared to be different tonight, as we just seemed like a confident bunch once we got rolling. We showed that we don't need to throw the ball all over the field in order to move it. We also showed that Dorien Bryant as a kick returner is a dangerous, dangerous weapon to have back there with the new kickoff rules.
How nice was it to have a defensive front that was actually stopping a running game? What's even better is that it wasn't just one guy doing the stopping, but the whole team. Our defensive tackles were more active in the backfield. We were actually stopping a running back with linebackers instead of the secondary. The secondary itself didn't do too bad of a job stopping a weak passing game. The only concern there should be that the dropped pass was our best defense in several situations. Better teams won't drop that many passes.
Fortunately we have another week to work on the few things we do need to work on. Our coverage could have been a bit tighter and the run defense still could use a little work, but it was significantly better than last year so I will take it. Many of the yards we gave up tonight were yards well after the game was decided, and for once we were lights out when the game was still in doubt. This allowed the offense to blow up and finish the deal.
On a final note it was great to see Painter not have a single interception tonight, though he had some close calls. He seemed more sure in the pocket tonight and had two very nice TD throws to Orton and Lymon. He already owns a four to nothing touchdown to interception ratio, and hopefully he will be adding to that next week.
Really what more could you ask for out of a college football Saturday? Purdue gets a huge blowout win on the road to start the season, Michigan gets upset to make things look better in the conference, and Notre Dame got drilled at home. It was a very, very good day.