Military Bowl 2011: Key Matchups for Toledo vs. Air Force
The fourth installment of the Military Bowl appropriately will feature one of the service academies, as 7-5 Air Force meets 8-4 Toledo at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The game will be played on Wednesday December 28th, at 4:30 PM, and will air on ESPN.
The Falcons and their triple option offense have won four of five after dropping three straight at midseason. Tim Beckman's Rockets also are playing good football of late, winning seven of their final eight games, the only loss being a 63-60 shootout to Northern Illinois.
Air Force was victorious in last year's Independence Bowl, a 14-7 squeaker over Georgia Tech. Toledo fell to Florida International, 34-32, in the Little Casear's Bowl.
Here are five key matchups to watch in the 2011 Military Bowl.
Toledo's Run Defense vs. the Triple Option
Toledo's defense drew strong criticism after giving up 63 points in back-to-back games (one of those won by the Rockets). They've actually been very stingy against the run this year, finishing 28th in the FBS.
Air Force has run the ball 668 times this season, second only to Army. Jefferson and running back Asher Clark are the key pieces of Troy Calhoun's triple-option attack. The Falcons have scored at least 35 points in half of their 12 games.
Toledo WR Eric Page vs. Air Force CB Anthony Wright
Wright, a four-year starter in the Falcons' secondary, will likely be given the task of shadowing the dangerous Page. The junior receiver finished third in the MAC with 1123 yards and ten touchdowns.
The two are very comparable in stature, with both under 6'0" and under 200 pounds. Page, however, has game-breaking speed that will cause problems for an experienced but not overly talented Air Force defense.
Toledo MLB Dan Molls vs. Air Force FB Wesley Cobb
Cobb is a versatile back for the Falcons, getting carries both between the tackles and on the outside. No position is more important to stopping the run in a 4-3 defense than the middle linebacker, and Molls is the best one in the MAC.
The two will match up both when Cobb has the ball and when he's blocking for Clark or Jefferson. Cobb has 74 carries and four touchdowns this season.
Air Force LB Eric Means vs. Toledo OTs Mike VanDerMeulen and John Morookian
Means is the dominant pass rusher for the Falcons, but faces a unique challenge against Toledo's left-handed quarterback, Terrance Owens. What normally is the quarterback's blindside is the opposite against the southpaw.
Air Force will likely move Means around and match him up against both VanDerMeulen and Morookian. The coaching staff will have to determine if Means is best suited to stay on his natural side of the field against the lefty Owens.
Toledo Coach Tim Beckman vs. the Officials
Toledo was on the short end of the biggest officiating blunder of the season in an overtime loss to Syracuse. An Orange extra point attempt clearly went wide left, but the officials ruled the kick good, even after a replay review.
Beckman publicly decried the replay system after the game, saying that it was injustice to not use the replay technology properly. It's unlikely that the fiery third-year coach will show much restraint on the sidelines after the fallout from the events that afternoon in the Carrier Dome.