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Story Time with Toledo Blade's Ryan Autullo

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COLUMBIA, Mo. • Each week during the season I’ll catch up with a sportswriter who covers the next team on Missouri’s schedule to share some thoughts on the Tigers’ opponent. This week, we checked in with the Toledo Blade’s Ryan Autullo (@AutulloBlade), who follows the Toledo Rockets here.

Q. What did you learn about this Toledo team from the Florida game? (The Rockets lost 24-6 last week at The Swamp.)

A. Not as much as I had hoped. Florida's defense, which is as talented as Toledo has faced in a long time, rendered an up-tempo offense motionless. Is this a signal Toledo's offense is going to disappoint this season? I'm not ready to say that, but I didn't see many signs of encouragement. I need a larger sample size to render a verdict. Similarly, Florida's ground-and-pound offense was so conservative and so predictable that I don't know what to make of a decent showing by Toledo's much maligned defense. Florida's offense is not built to make defenses look bad. I didn't learn much.

Q: What’s the local perception of Gary Pinkel and the influence he had on the Toledo program?

A: Pinkel is beloved around here. The word I keep hearing about him from his former players is "consistent." They knew what they were getting from him. That Pinkel stayed at Toledo 10 seasons means a lot to people around here. He didn't seem to view this job as a means to land a better gig. This game will be big for Pinkel and for Toledo but not as big as next year's meeting when he and Missouri visit Toledo. 

Q: For Toledo to pull off the upset Saturday, what has to happen? What do they do well enough to challenge Missouri?

A: Toledo has to score touchdowns to win Saturday. That sounds simplistic, but the Rockets failed to get into the end zone last week at The Swamp and thus couldn't hang tight with Florida. Missouri's offense will have success against Toledo's shaky secondary, so the Rockets must be prepared to trade touchdowns. Secondly, Toledo needs to win critical situations. That means the offense needs to convert on third down (only 1 of 13 against Florida) and the defense needs to force field goal attempts in the red zone.

Q: What’s your impression of Matt Campbell and the job he’s done at Toledo at such a young age?

A: Campbell has done a good job of maintaining the program's success from the Tim Beckman seasons (Campbell was Beckman's offensive coordinator). Campbell's true value will be determined in whether he can elevate the program to the next level. That, to me, means winning big non-conference road games, winning league championships, and winning bowl games. This season will be a test to see just how good he is. Toledo's schedule is brutal. The double-dip to start the season with Florida and Missouri is just a taste. Even the easy games won't be easy. If Campbell's team can win an elusive MAC title he'll have job opportunities elsewhere. I do not sense however he is itching to leave.

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