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Final Word on Toledo

The Final Word 200I waited to post this piece largely in hopes that my reaction wouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction that oversells at its most basic point a victory over an inferior team. Because like it or not, that’s exactly what happened. Toledo wasn’t, isn’t, and won’t be as good as the Cards for a bit and that was brought to bear on Saturday. Make no mistake, the win was earned, deserved, and exciting. But at some point, and for the implementation of the mental attitude that Pete Lembo has been preaching to take hold, wins like this shouldn’t excite the fans more than any other win. Does Boise State get excited when they beat Idaho? Does Northern Illinois mess their britches over beating an FCS team? Both of those are met with an immediate happiness and then it’s on to the next one. That’s what’s needed here.

This, of course, will be met with a chorus of “Enjoy the ride!”s or “You suck. It was a huge win!”s and people are certainly entitled to their opinion. I like to think I don’t suck, but I am obviously biased. I am enjoying the ride, and I do think it was a big win, but not because it was an unexpected one. It was this one. It was the one we played this week, and that made it the most important game in the world. And a loss would have been damn near impossible to overcome for the MAC West’s berth in the MAC Championship.

At its most basic, this is what speaks the most to the Lembo regime in Muncie. To even have a leg to stand on to make this argument, to sound entitled, to be expectant of victory is quite the change of pace from two and a half years ago, when I, like many others, spent the prior two seasons just praying we wouldn’t get blown out. For the record, this is a much more enjoyable way to go through life. I’m not sure what the future holds for Pete Lembo and crew in Muncie (though with each win I get less and less confident that I don’t know what’s coming) but it has been a remarkable journey with him and his staff. It can’t be understated just how far this team has come in two and a half seasons. National eyes will remember BSU for 2008 and now, and they’ll think Lembo just built on what was here before he came without fully understanding what that means. Kudos and congrats to Coach Lembo, the staff, the players, and the fans. Everyone stepped up and did their job on Saturday. And that’s a great thing. The final word on Toledo is:

foretoken (n.)

  • a sign of something to come

Some other notes…

  • How about those fans?! The announced attendance was 18,329 and the photos I saw made it seem a bit fuller than that. Even if it was 1500 off or so, it was still the largest home crowd since the season finale in 2008. I was at that game and bar none it was the most exciting football game I’ve been to. I hope the crowds this season continue to grow and support this team. I’m optimistic.
  • Another 300+ yard day at the office for Keith Wenning who went for 335 on 27/38 passing. No TDs which is more surprising than his one INT but he did run one in. So there’s that. TDs on TDs on TDs.
  • Speaking of TDs on TDs on TDs, Quake Edwards proved yet again that he is indeed a grown ass man or a GAM as I like to abbreviate it. The yard total wasn’t eye popping at 89 yards, but he made the most of his chances with 3 scores.
  • While we’re on the subject of offense, let’s chat about the receiving corps. 9 yards away from three players over 100 a piece. I have come to the conclusion that between Willie Snead, Jamil Smith, and Jordan Williams, you will not find a more talented group of receivers. Not just in the MAC, anywhere in the country. Yeah. I said it.
  • I will freely admit that when I got through the first quarter I was exceptionally nervous. Between the turnovers, the tie score, and the MAC officials being MAC officials, there was upset blood in the water. I can’t remember the last time I had that feeling so early in a game. At least with North Texas, we were up big early.
  • Speaking of MAC officials, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pass interference calls just get blatantly ignored. Hell, Williams got mugged by a Toledo DB with the official no more than five feet away. The ball was quite catchable, would have been a TD, and no call was made. Perhaps there was a desire to not have pass interference called on every play. If that’s a goal, then perhaps Toledo should stop doing it. Just a thought.
  • The defense was great at times yesterday. Good enough for Kenny Lee to win MAC West Defensive Player of the Week with his sack, INT, 8 tackles, and 1.5 TFL. For a linebacking crew that was one of the biggest question marks this season, it’s great to see Lee step up.
  • All told I thought each facet of the game performed well enough overall and all came up big during specific opportunities to do so. That, to me, is the mark of a great team. It isn’t a team that lays a whipping on people from minute one until the ball game is over. No team maintains that sort of intensity for a 60 minute football game. Look at the great teams though and you’ll see teams that know when to press, when to push, and when to step up. And this team has that.

Saturday, the Cards take to the road for their biggest road game of the season so far to one of the prettiest campuses in America. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time on UVA’s campus throughout my career and if you have the opportunity to go, I would strongly encourage you to. It’s definitely a different feel than the Auburns, the Michigans, or the Nebraskas, but it’s awesome for different reasons. Kickoff is at noon, and UVA week begins now.

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