By Christian Clark, KBIA Sports
Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely dazzled during his first start in more than 3 ½ years last week against New Hampshire.
The Rockets trailed 7-3 after one quarter, but Ely engineered eight consecutive scoring drives to help them earn a 54-20 season opening win. Ely finished the day with 337 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air.
“I’m very impressed with his moxie,” Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said. “They put some stuff on his shoulders and he’s doing a great job of calling audibles and checking at the line of scrimmage for a guy who’s playing his first college football game at Toledo.”
Ely — a junior and transfer from Alabama — will try to display some of that moxie Saturday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio, against No. 24 Missouri.
But it’s not just Ely who the Tigers have to worry about as they try to start 2-0 for the second consecutive season.
The Rockets are an experienced team, boasting 19 returning starters, four of which are offensive lineman.
Toledo’s offensive line is arguably one of the finest in the country. The four starters returning from last year’s unit — which allowed just six sacks in 12 games — are seniors. Even with a breadth of talented pass rushers, Missouri failed to register a sack in its 38-23 home victory over Toledo last September.
“We have our hands full with that offensive line,” Steckel said. “Very nasty, tough players. And I mean nasty in a nice way. They’re very physical, hard-nosed kids.”
Historically, Toledo has had great success at home against ranked opponents. They are 5-2 all-time, the last victory coming against No. 18 Cincinnati in 2012. The Rockets were deemed favorites to win the Mid-American Conference’s West Division in July, based on voting by the league’s media contingent.
“Toledo is a good team, man,” Missouri defensive end Markus Golden said. “Last year they were a good team. That’s what we like, though. You want to go to a place like that, where the fans support them and it’s loud. We expect it to be a good game and we’ll be ready.”
Saturday marks the lone road test for the Tigers before Southeastern Conference play. Missouri will host Central Florida and Indiana in consecutive weeks before attempting to defend its SEC East title on the road Sept. 27 at South Carolina.