If you’ve followed Toledo’s football program with any regularity in recent years, you’d know that their 16-12 win over then-No. 18 Arkansas this past weekend was an upset in ranking only. The Rockets have come close-but-no-cigar numerous times against high-profile opponents, but on Saturday, they got their cigar.
“The win was tremendous for our kids, for our program,” Toledo head coach Matt Campbell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Obviously we’ve been in a lot of close games the last couple years and had been really close. We had the opportunity to play Missouri at Missouri, they came to Toledo, and obviously we went down to Florida and played in a really close football game and hadn’t been able to put all 60 minutes together and win a game like that. For us to be able to do that and learn our lessons in those games before and to go play 60 minutes of football where we played to our capability and never put ourselves in a situation to lose the football game, it was great for our kids to be able to take the next step. We enjoyed it in the locker room afterwards and obviously on the plane ride home, but it’s so early in the football season. Our first game got cut short (due to lightning), so it was really Game 1 for our football team this year. As we came back yesterday, we went out and practiced and had a really good practice knowing that everybody is going to want to tell us how good we are, but in reality, there’s still a lot of hard work to be done. For us, that’s just Step 1 for our football team in 2015. I look forward to the challenges ahead of us.”
Phillip Ely led the way for Toledo, throwing for 237 yards and a touchdown, while Damion Jones-Moore rushed 11 times for 68 yards and a score.
Campell had two goals for his players.
“No. 1, we had to control the tempo of the football game,” he said. “Defensively, we had to try to put them in passing situations. They have such a dynamic run game and they’ve got a great offensive line, tremendous tight ends, a great running back. We wanted to be able to try to put them in passing situations and then make them play behind the sticks and allow us to play some coverage behind it and help our guys out in the back end. I thought we were able to do that for the most part throughout the game. And offensively, (we wanted to) play with some tempo – and that doesn’t mean playing fast all the time, but playing with a consistent tempo to wear down their front seven. Even though the score didn’t look like it was a huge tempo game, I thought our kids did a great job throughout the game controlling and dictating the tempo of the game.”
It was also important for Toledo to win what Campbell called “critical situations.” Toledo, which possessed the ball for just 22 minutes, was 7-of-17 on third down and 2-of-3 on fourth down. Arkansas, by comparison, was just 5-of-13 and 1-of-3, respectively. The Razorbacks had 515 total yards but just 103 on the ground – on 31 attempts (3.3 yards per carry).
“We’ve looked back in the past at some of these games – and obviously we give credit to all of our opponents – but we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, whether it be third-down percentage or red-zone offense, red-zone defense,” Campbell said. “If you look back at the game, we won all those critical statistics. We won in the red zone both offensively and defensively. We won on third down both offensively and defensively, and the biggest thing was we didn’t turn the football over and we were able to block a punt and get a critical interception. Usually when you do those things and you feel there’s a fairly even matchup, you have a chance to win those football games.”
Toledo (1-0) hosts Iowa State (1-1) on Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. ET.