Set aside the coach speak this week — the University of Miami is coming to the Glass Bowl.
While Toledo coach Jason Candle generally preaches that one game is not more important than the rest, he knows the buzz surrounding No. 21 Miami’s visit Saturday is simply on another level.
“I think [the players] know it’s Miami,” Candle said. “I think the city knows it’s Miami. I think our university knows it’s Miami. The game is not just any other game. Any time you hear that, it’s just coach talk, so to speak.”
While this game has been circled on the calendar since the schedule came out this season, Candle says the preparation leading up the game should not change for a Toledo program that won the Mid-American Conference last season.
“Your preparation has to be that it’s just another game and what the details of that looks like,” Candle said. “We are not going to sacrifice who we are on Monday through Friday. On game day, you are going to have to make sure you are sound in your responsibilities and make sure you know what you are doing. You are going to be challenged for 60-70 snaps every play. The guy across from you is going to be a really good player.”
Toledo opened the season with a 66-3 win over Virginia Military Institute on Sept. 1 but has been off since then.
Against VMI, junior quarterback Mitch Guadagni threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start. Cody Thompson, Diontae Johnson, and Jon’Vea Johnson each had a TD grab in the game, and the Rockets had six running backs with at least 20 rushing yards.
That depth at the skill positions is UT’s biggest strength, but the offense will face perhaps its stiffest test of the season on Saturday against a very good Miami defense. A year ago, the team debuted its now-famous “Turnover Chain” and put it to good use, placing third in the nation with 31 forced turnovers. This year, the Hurricanes are giving up just 195.0 yards of offense per game.
“They have a really strong defense,” Guadagni said. “They have some really, really good players. Their front line is really good. Their linebackers are elite, and they have some really good secondary players. We’re just trying to figure out a good game plan to attack them and get the ball rolling on them.”
Miami lost its season-opener 33-17 to then-No. 25 LSU, but bounced back with a 77-0 win over Savannah State on Saturday.
Toledo’s defense was good against VMI in the opener but will face a whole new test on Saturday with the talent and depth of the Hurricanes offense. Quarterback Malik Rosier threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns vs. Toledo a year ago, while running back Travis Homer ran for two scores against the Rockets in Miami’s 52-30 win.
“You have to make sure you stay in the moment and don’t make this game bigger than it actually is,” UT junior defensive tackle Nate Childress said. “Once you do that, then you get yourself out of whack and start doing things that you don’t need to do. Everybody just has to do their small detailed things right and at the end we’ll see what the result is.”
As a noon game that is nationally televised on ESPN2, this is an opportunity for Toledo to be showcased nationwide.
“It’s a great opportunity to get shown on a national stage,” Guadagni said. “Miami is an elite program with elite players. I think you always want to play the best when you feel like you have a really good team. I think we can hang with whoever. I think you come to Toledo to play in big games.”
Candle knows that all eyes in Toledo will be on the Rockets, and he hopes his team shows steady improvement from the first week of the season.
“It’s the main event this weekend,” Candle said. “It’s a really great opportunity for our guys and we have a ton of respect for their program. It’s going to be a big game. It’s the next step for us and we are trying to get better week-to-week.
“Whoever made that saying up that you always get better from week one to week two didn’t have to play the Hurricanes in week two I guess. We are going to do our best to try to continue to get better and give it our best shot this weekend.”
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