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What We Learned: Takeaways from Toledo’s 45-7 victory against UMass

Lessons learned from the biggest football game in New England this past weekend.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Toledo Rockets (2-3, 1-0 MAC) rocketed past the UMass Minutemen (0-5), 45-7 on Saturday.

Here are some quick hits on lessons learned going forward:

UMass Isn’t very good

Toledo’s 45-7 victory over UMass is impressive, as the Rockets appear back on track after losing ugly to Colorado State with victories against Ball State and now UMass.

However, the victory against UMass should be taken with a grain of salt. UMass is 0-5, and has been held to just one score in three games while allowing at-least 42 points in every game thus far. They are now 0-2 against MAC foes after also losing to Eastern Michigan. They were 0-4 last season and 1-11 in 2019. When UMass was in the MAC, they were a non-factor in the conference standings.

Life as an independent (even with a new on campus stadium) hasn’t advanced football in Massachusetts, and if you want to get weird their next two games are against programs challenging to be the most dysfunctional in college football with UConn and Florida State.

If it helps, it will soon be basketball and hockey season while that cursive “U” logo is sharp.

Alright, enough on our old friends the Minutemen.

Toledo proved that Week 4 was an trip-up, not a trend

We’re back to beating this drum again. The Rockets started strong with a win against Norfolk State and looked about as good as a MAC school could look in defeat, losing late to blue-blood Notre Dame but after a soul crushing defeated 22-6 at the hands of Colorado State some wondered who the Rockets really were.

Back-to-back wins over Ball State and now UMass has put the Rockets back in consideration as a front runner in the MAC. They are perhaps just a step below Western Michigan but are among the best in the parity filled MAC.

This week’s game against Northern Illinois could further the Rockets case but NIU has looked like a sleeper team.

The Rockets are finding different ways to win

The UT offense is good, we know that. The Rockets special teams is good and this weekend their defense took advantage of the Minutemen offense.

The Rocket defense set up three scores which occurred in the first play from scrimmage following a UMass turnover. They forced four turnovers and it could have been worse had UMass not recovered two other fumbles.

Their win against Norfolk State was sparked by their special-team’s units and now with a win sparked largely by dominating defensive play, the Rockets have the look of a complete team.

Dequan Finn is a playmaker

We know Toledo has playmakers, and every week in this piece, I could write about Bryant Koback, who added two more touchdowns this week. But redshirt freshman Dequan Finn is one of the more underrated players in the MAC. The former Detroit King HS standout was Michigan’s Mr. Football in 2018, and has played to that pedigree when called upon.

Finn has 34 carries for 256 yards with four touchdowns, and a long run of 70 yards. He has scored a rushing touchdown in every game except for the Rockets loss to Colorado State. He also had his first passing touchdown of the season this weekend at UMass, perhaps hinting at an increased role behind starter Carter Bradley. He is now 19-of-29 passing for 192 yards.

Speed and play making ability plays which is why Finn has been one of the most exciting players in the MAC this fall. His progression will be worth keeping an eye on for MAC denizens.

October = Spooky SZN for Toledo

Looking at the Rockets schedule, November games are against Eastern Michigan, rival Bowling Green, Ohio and Akron. Each are games which the Rockets should be favored in, although anything can happen when the schedule turns to the MACtion weeknight portion. Also, Bowling Green is vastly improved and a rival is never a push over. Simply put, make it to November and the schedule shapes up for a Rocket run to Detroit.

To get to that point, however, the Rockets host NIU, travel to Central Michigan and come back home to Western Michigan. That’s a tough month, as October will likely tell us just where Toledo is in the MAC hierarchy.

This week’s game against NIU represents the Rockets homecoming, and Northern Illinois has been playing some good football outside of a blow-out loss to Michigan. In addition to beating Georgia Tech of the ACC, they have been testy in every game, and look to be the best dark horse to sneak into championship picture with the likely suspects of WMU, UT, and Buffalo.

A loss to NIU muddles the championship picture and would leave Toledo with little margin for error during what should be a challenging month.