Since Razorbacks fans have dissected the U.T.E.P. game and thought overwhelmingly that Arkansas turned in a good performance, there’s not much left to say about the Hogs or to have any great insight that things should be any different this week. Let’s find out a little about Toledo.
The University of Toledo is here
The University boasts 23,000 students, and it’s mascot name is “Rockets.”
The Toledo Rockets hail from the Mid America Conference (MAC) where they play teams mainly unfamiliar to Razorback Fans save Northern Illinois which the Hogs beat 52-14 last season in Fayetteville. The Huskies went on to an 11-3 record with losses to Central Michigan (then head coached by current Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos) and to Marshall in the Boca Raton Bowl. Before then, Arkansas faced MAC opponent Eastern Michigan in 2009 when the Razorbacks whipped the Eagles 63-27 scoring 50 points before half. (Btw, having driven through the Ohio Valley once, they pronounce Miami as “mee am mee.”)
Arkansas and Toledo have never faced each other in football.
Matt Campbell, age 35, is in his fourth season as The Rockets’ head coach having started as an interim head coach in the 2011 Toledo victory (42-41) over Air Force in the Military Bowl. He’s compiled a 26-13 record with trips to the 2012 Idaho Potato Bowl and the Go Daddy Bowl last season (a 63-44 winner over Arkansas State Red Wolves.)
This Rockets senior class isn’t without experience against the SEC. Last year Toledo and Missouri completed a home-and-home series with Mizzou’s trip to Toledo’s “Glass Bowl” stadium. Additionally the Rockets faced Tommy Tuberville’s Cincinnati squad last season and Iowa State which resulted in losses in both games. In 2013 Toledo started out 0-2 in the SEC losing at Florida and Missouri meaning that some of the Toledo players have been to SEC venues. During the Matt Campbell era, Toledo has faced 5 ranked opponents with its only win coming in 2012 with Toledo scoring a 29-23 victory over #21 Cincinnati.
Over the same period Arkansas’ faced 17 ranked opponents including three topped ranked opponents in Alabama (2012, 2013) and Mississippi St.(2014) winning only 2 of those contests by shutting out No. 17 LSU 17-0 and No. 8 Ole Miss 30-0 in successive weeks.
Probably the biggest win in Toledo football’s history was a 13-10 victory over Michigan in 2008 in Ann Arbor. If you’re wondering, Ryan Mallett was at Michigan in 2007 and played extensively before being benched in favor of Chad Henne. Mallett transferred to Arkansas in January 2008. Matt Campbell was not on the Toledo staff at the time.
Nick Saban’s first head coaching position was as Toledo’s head coach in 1990 leading the Rockets to a 9-2 record before leaving to become the DC of the Cleveland Browns in 1991.
Last week Toledo officially didn’t play a game that they lead 16-7 at the half over the State University of New York at Stony Brook Seawolves because lightning caused weather delays through the first half and yet another lightning delay pushed the start of the 3rd quarter beyond midnight. At that point the game was called a “no contest.” Oh so close! Toledo could have beaten the Red Wolves and Seawolves in successive games. Stony Brook scored the first touchdown and it was a couple of series before Toledo took the lead. All that said, Toledo is labeling the Arkansas game as its “2nd Season Opener.”
Toledo’s information department notes, “Toledo’s new school president, Dr. Sharon Gaber, was most recently the provost and vice Chancellor for academic affairs at Arkansas. Gaber, who began her post at UT on July 1, will be attending the game. Her eldest daughter is a senior at Arkansas.”
And regarding returning players, “The Rockets return 47 letter winners and 15 starters from last year, as well as six All-MAC players.”
In Matt Campbell’s press conference earlier this week…
“In my opinion, I would have to believe this Arkansas team is one of the best teams in the country in college football.” He heaped praise on Arkansas’ offense and defense as well. As far as Brandon Allen goes, Campbell sees him as one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country because of his efficiency as a quarterback. As far as Arkansas’ game against UTEP showing the same offense that Dan Enos ran at Central Michigan, Campbell said that the thought there were some similarities but that he thought that was part of the reason Dan Enos got the job was because there were similarities already in what he did and what Arkansas was trying to be. He said that at Central Michigan, Enos had some big playmakers at receiver, a good running game and a big offensive line.
Wow. Campbell then goes into a segment where he notes that early on in the UTEP game that Arkansas spread the field to get the ball out to Arkansas’ skilled athletes and make plays horizontally. He said that Arkansas tried to make you defend the field east to west as well as north to south. Who’da thunk Bielema and spread offense would be in the same sentence without it followed by “I hate Auburn”?
Campbell talks about his “new offensive line” and thought they did well. [Among the five on the first team offensive line, they played in a total of 33 games last year.]
Campbell expects that teams like Arkansas will want to put as many points on the board as possible.
When faced with a question about whether Arkansas has an edge, Campbell stammered around repeating “we are who we are.”
The press conference looked like a coach who knew his team was about to be hammered so he didn’t want to add fuel to the fire.
Toledo returns their quarterbacks who accounted for the bulk of their passing yards last season in Phillip Ely and Logan Woodside. If Ely sounds like a familiar name it’s because he backed up A.J. McCarron at Alabama in 2012 before transferring to Toledo in 2013.
Toledo’s main running back Kareem Hunt is suspended for this game. He rushed for 1631 yards in 2014 on 205 carries for a whopping 8.0 yards per carry accounting for 16 TDs.
The Rockets return both main receivers in Corey Jones and Alonzo Russell who combined for 1,620 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014. Toledo had 7 players who had at least 10 catches over the season with four of them having TD catches from 40 yards or more.
On special teams, the Rockets start a freshman placekicker. Their punter is alright with a long of 51 yards last season.
Interestingly, the Hogs may see more adventures in the punt return game. Long snapper Brad Spelman backed up in 2 games last year and Junior Zach Lozar has yet to make the field in his three years at Toledo.
The only thing to add that hasn’t really been talked about from the Arkansas game last week that was a matter of concern was this mismatch on defense. It’s difficult to know whether there was a missed assignment, the players were out of position or exactly what the issue was. If it remains, it will be something that offenses go to against the Razorbacks.