At the suggestion of Ryan Autullo, Toledo Rockets beat writer for the Toledo Blade, we threw five questions at each other to get the other side's perspective leading up to Saturday's game at UB Stadium. Here are my questions and his responses:
Q.How important do you think going with one QB has been to Toledo's offense this year? Was it just a matter of gaining some experience before Terrance Owens took the job outright?
A. It's a great question, and I'm afraid I don't have a great answer. In theory, it would make sense that the decision to give one quarterback the job permanently is a positive. Considering Toledo broke in seven new starters elsewhere on offense, familiarity at the leadership position has helped. But to what extent it has made a difference is difficult to say. This was a top 10 offense a year ago under the shared arrangement. I do think that Owens effectively secured the job last year when Austin Dantin suffered a concussion that sidelined him for several games. Owens was excellent in leading his team to three wins and entered the spring as the popular choice. For what it's worth, Toledo might be undefeated had he played the entire game in the opening week of the season at Arizona. He was the more effective quarterback that night but was on the sideline in the fourth quarter and in overtime. He has been the guy ever since, with Dantin being relegated to a very minor role.
Q. Obviously people here keep tabs on David Fluellen. How about some observations as to what has made him so successful. And are you at all surprised by the extent of what he's accomplished this season?
A. I'm not surprised by the ability he has shown because I saw it all spring. He's a strong, shifty back with good enough speed. He was in the shadows of two-time 1000-yard back Adonis Thomas the past two years, so his talents were hidden. What surprises me is how often he is carrying the ball, at 20 times per game. His backfield mate, Cassius McDowell, is getting only about seven touches a game. Frankly, there's no need to give McDowell too many carries right now. Fluellen is as good of a back as there is in the league.
Q. Dan Molls's tackle count is through the roof. UB coach Jeff Quinn says part of that is because the line does such a good job keeping blockers off him. Is that how you see it?
A. Molls leads the nation with 102 tackles and 12.75 stops a game. I agree with Quinn's observation; the line has been decent against the run. But there's more that has gone into it. Molls is always where he needs to be, so he has been able to make open field stops as well as tackles in the passing game. He's not blessed with great speed or great size, but he's the most consistent player on the team.
Q. There aren't too many 32-year-old head football coaches around in the FBS. Elevating Matt Campbell to the position after last season might have raised some eyebrows simply because of the age factor. How important was promoting from within to the team's continuity and its ability to pick up where it left off last season?
A. Promoting from within just for the sake of continuity would have been a mistake. If there was no one on staff ready to be a head coach, Toledo should have opened up the search. But Campbell was ready. I covered him when he was a 27-year-old offensive line coach at Bowling Green, and I heard numerous times from his players that he would one day become a head coach. I didn't think it would be this soon, but he was in a fortuitous position when Tim Beckman left for Illinois. Beckman did an excellent job at Toledo in his three years, but it is becoming apparent that Campbell played a major role in the team's success.
Q. I'm guessing the Cincinnati win created quite a buzz around the city. Where to the Rockets fit in the city's sports fabric, especially now that they're on the verge of a national ranking?
A.You can sense pride growing around here, and it will only intensify if Toledo can crack the top 25 for the first time since 2001. Rankings are a big deal, especially to the casual fan. The Tigers, being in the World Series, have hogged much of the local sports discussion, but Toledo football isn't far behind right now. The atmosphere at the Glass Bowl against Cincinnati was electric.
-- Bob DiCesare