Rockets Ready to Launch vs. Arizona; Campbell Makes On-Field Debut as Head Coach
TOLEDO - A college football season opener doesn't really need any extra storylines, but Toledo's game at Arizona (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET/ESPNU) is loaded with them nevertheless.
First, the obvious. It's the regular-season head coaching debut for Matt Campbell, and his first time on the field as the team's general. Campbell coached the Rockets from the coaches box in Toledo's 42-41 victory over Air Force in last year's Military Bowl, just 16 days after being named to replace Tim Beckman as head coach. Campbell begins his career with high expectations: the Rockets were picked to win the MAC West Division despite losing 13 starters from last year's 9-4 squad.
It's also the debut for Arizona's new head coach, Rich Rodriguez. The Rockets last met up with a Rodriguez-coached team in 2008, defeating Michigan, 13-10.
Senior free safety Mark Singer is the only current Rocket who played in the Michigan game back in 2008. Singer, who had his first career interception vs. the Wolverines, is back in the lineup after missing the entire 2011 season due to a shoulder injury. Also returning from injury is senior defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, a two-time All-MAC player who missed the final seven games in 2001 due to an elbow injury. Fatinikun and Singer led a veteran Rocket defense that feels it has something to prove this season.
And of course, there's the little issue at quarterback. The difference between Toledo's two quarterbacks--senior Austin Dantin and junior Terrance Owens--is so slight that the UT coaching staff decided to let a coin flip decide who starts. The flip favored Dantin, who is the opening-game QB for the third straight season. Owens will come in on the second series. After that, it's coach's choice.
And oh yeah, there's the little matter of the 41-2 pounding Toledo took on its home turf at the hands of the Wildcats two seasons ago. The Rockets will have plenty of players on the field Saturday who were on the squad then to winess the carnage. Revenge has tio figure in there somewhere.
All of it adds up for a potentially fascinating battle between two schools whose path could lead in just about any direction this season. By late Sunday morning, fans of both schools should know a lot more about what to expect for the following 11 games.