Toledo received a golden opportunity to host a ranked Miami (FL) team at the Glass Bowl on Saturday morning. After leading the Hurricanes at halftime in 2017’s bout, revenge was on the Rockets’ minds when the green and orange stepped foot on their home turf.
It didn’t happen.
The offense took a long time to power on and the defense struggled to make stops during significant drives in the second half. This resulted in the Hurricanes coasting to a wire-to-wire victory, 49-24. Toledo falls to 1-1 with the team’s first home loss since October 27, 2016.
Toledo’s offense was too conservative to start
When your wide receiving corps features Cody Thompson and Diontae Johnson, and consists of a supporting cast of Jon’Vea Johnson, Danzel McKinley-Lewis, and Desmond Phillips... throw the ball.
Toledo wasn’t testing Miami through the air early, constantly coming up short in the running game and punting the ball away. Although Guadagni is a rather inexperienced quarterback, Toledo’s offense is optimized when it uses the bevy of talent at the receiver position. There is no reason the Rockets should finish a game with 21 passing attempts unless it’s against an FCS program or bottom-feeder MAC team.
The Rockets outgained Miami through the air, 222-205. Diontae Johnson came up with several large gains and key catches during Toledo’s near-comeback in the third quarter. Other than Johnson, the Toledo wideouts combined for three catches and 37 yards. It’s time Guadagni spends more time in the pocket and targets these receivers more often.
Toledo’s offense adds mobility at QB
In his second start with Toledo, Guadagni nearly topped Logan Woodside’s single-season high in the rushing department. Woodside stayed strictly within the pocket during his long tenure as Toledo’s starting quarterback. His one weakness was a lack of mobility.
But that dimension has been added to Toledo’s offense with the arrival of Guadagni. Even though he took four sacks thanks to an inexperienced and struggling offensive line, he rushed for 47 yards — ranking first on the team in the game. He was the team’s most prolific rusher on Saturday, which is something Toledo hasn’t seen from the QB position in a long time. If he develops as a passer, it’ll be interesting to see how versatile Toledo’s offense can be under the junior from Hudson, OH.
Toledo’s run defense shows no improvement
The discrepancy between the team’s in the run game was a giant factor in pushing Miami to a 52-30 victory in 2017. That trend continued in Part II of the series.
Toledo was outclassed on the ground, 268-112 in yardage. Just one year ago, the Rockets’ struggled in stopping the run, allowing Miami’s Mark Walton to explode for 204 yards on 11 carries.
In 2018, Toledo’s defense yielded five rushing touchdowns including three to quarterback Malik Rosier. Rosier pitched in 80 yards while running backs DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer combined for 182. On a critical fourth down while trailing by seven, Toledo’s inability to stop the run prevented the offense from receiving an opportunity to tie the score.
The Rockets scored on four-consecutive possessions in the late second quarter and early third quarter. However, because of Miami overpowering Toledo in the trenches, the running game allowed the Hurricanes to register four-straight touchdowns during Toledo’s successful offensive sequence.
Maybe Toledo needs a turnover chain
When a defense struggles to make stops, force turnovers.
Creating turnovers is what allows teams like UCF and Memphis to sport great defenses, despite the number of yards they allow.
Toledo failed to generate a single takeaway from Miami, losing the turnover battle 1-0 on a Guadagni interception. Miami didn’t turn to the passing game too much, but the Hurricanes weren’t very accurate in that department. Rosier completed just 13-of-23 passes, so it’s a bit of a surprise none of those incompletions ended up in the hands of Toledo defenders.
A forced fumble or intercepted pass would have worked wonders for the Rockets, especially during the period in the third quarter when the offense looked rejuvenated and ready to win the game. Unfortunately for Jason Candle, his defense struggled to provide any hope.
Diontae Johnson is back from last season
Toledo’s breakout star from 2017 posted his first impressive performance in the new season. Johnson recorded six catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Almost all of Toledo’s significant offensive gains were a result of Johnson’s catches. He made over-the-shoulder grabs, outran defenders on plenty of routes, and finished with some nice jukes and spins at times.
Johnson set a program record in receiving yardage last season, and his offensive dominance could continue after a promising game against a talented secondary. Through two games, Johnson stands at eight catches, 179 yards, and three scores. Here is his most impressive scoring play of the season, vaulting Toledo to within seven with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
Diontae Johnson runs it in for another Rocket touchdown! Toledo 21, Miami 28 #GoRockets pic.twitter.com/DCWF340NHk— Toledo Athletics (@ToledoRockets) September 15, 2018