The Glass Bowl, Toledo, Ohio
By Evan Meyer
The Toledo Rockets were picked by many of the coaches and the media within the Mid-American Conference to not only win the Western Division, but to be victorious in the MAC Championship Game.
Toledo’s 2017 journey begins Thursday night when the Midnight Blue and Gold launch their 100th season of football by hosting the Phoenix of Elon University. It is the first meeting between the two teams.
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● The Phoenix are from the FCS Colonial Athletic Association and will come into this 2017 season under a new head coach in Curt Cignetti. He was named the 22nd head coach in school history on New Year’s Eve 2016 after going 53-17 at Division II Indiana University (Pennsylvania).
● Elon was picked 11th in the preseason CAA poll. James Madison was voted the top team in the conference, with Richmond second
● In 2016 the Phoenix averaged 12.2 points and 277.1 yards per game offensively while the defense allowed 30.7 points and 421.5 yards per contest.
● The Phoenix are 39-55-1 all time in season openers (4-14 in the Division I-AA/FCS era…They are 0-9 in games against the Football Bowl Subdivision and are playing their first ever game against Mid-American Conference opposition.
● The offense will start the season with a new quarterback. Both options are freshmen: Davis Cheek and Jalen Greene
● Sophomore De’Sean McNair is the top returning rusher with 522 yards and three touchdowns.
● Junior Corey Joyner leads the returning receivers with 35 catches for 391 yards and two scores
● The defense is led by senior DB Chris Blair, who had 79 total tackles (20 solo) and two interceptions
● Phoenix play-by-play announcer Taylor Durham’s father Wes is the current voice of the NFL Carolina Panthers and his grandfather Woody was the long time announcer at the University of North Carolina (football and Men’s Basketball)
● The Rockets, under second-year head coach Jason Candle, were picked by both MAC media and the MAC coaches as the favorite in the Mid-American Conference Western Division.
● UT returns 15 starters (six on offense seven on defense and both kickers). The Rockets averaged 38 points and 517.8 yards offensively, while defensively they allowed 27points and 396.5 yards in 2016.
● Senior QB Logan Woodside is the leader of the offense. Last year, he completed 69.1 percent of his passes (289-for-418) for 4,129 yards, 45 touchdowns (which led the FBS) and just nine interceptions
● Senior RB Terry Swanson will be the lead back this season after backing up Kareem Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs). Swanson rushed for 583 yards and four touchdowns in 2016
● Senior Cory Thompson led the returning receivers with 64 receptions for 1269 yards and 11 touchdowns.
● The offensive line allowed just 14 sacks in 2016 -- one of the best marks in the FBS.
● The defense will be led by DeJuan Rogers, who had 94 total tackles (55 solo), an interception and six pass breakups
● UT is 22-2 lifetime against FCS opposition
● Former Rockets quarterback Bruce Gradkowski heads into the broadcast booth as the analyst on the Rockets Sports Network/ WSPD-AM