Missouri heads to Toledo for an 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday in one of the biggest games in Glass Bowl history.
The Glass Bowl was built in 1936 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and the Tigers’ visit there will be the first by a Southeastern Conference school.
It is, of course, the return of the Toledo’s coaching victory leader.
Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who is also the Tigers’ coaching wins leader at 103-63 during the last 14 seasons, went 73-37-3 in 10 years with Toledo from 1991-2000.
Quint Kessenich will be the sideline reporter for ESPN’s broadcast and he was kind enough to chat with The Star about his thoughts on the matchup:
Q: Do you get the sense this is a bigger game for Missouri or Toledo?
Kessenich: “That’s interesting. When you look at Missouri’s schedule, they don’t play Alabama, Auburn, LSU. They’ve got the SEC East, but Toledo — in year three for Matt Campbell — I think this is a big game. It could be a signature win. It could really catapult them in the MAC and nationally.
“I think (the Rockets) are a better team than they were last year and I think Missouri is, obviously, not as strong as they were last year. So, I think for Toledo the opportunity here is tremendous.”
Q: How shocked would be if Toledo pulls the upset?
Kessenich: “The more I look at this game, the more I think it could really be a good football game. Missouri’s game, with the turnovers last week against South Dakota (State), it’s a little misleading. Then, Toledo handling New Hampshire after a slow start. I think they’re legit. The biggest question I have for Toledo is, how are they going react to Missouri’s speed?
“With guys like Marcus Murphy and Darius White and then defensively, the two D-ends, Shane Ray and Markus Golden, there’s a speed advantage on Missouri’s side. If you’re Toledo, you’re going to rely on your better offensive line, and you have a good quarterback, who I thought had a great debut last week, in Phillip Ely.”
Q: What matchup intrigues you most in the game?
Kessenich: “What jumped out at me when I watched Missouri’s game last week was Markus Golden and Shane Ray, the two D-ends. Shane Ray, I thought his motor’s unbelievable — how many plays he’s able to run down. Quick first step, great speed; he’s elusive. And then Markus Golden was everywhere with 10 tackles — really good power in his hands. He had a big play in this game last year, the tip and interception.
“Those two guys are going to be very, very difficult for Toledo to block. So, I think you’ll see a lot of draws and screens. Missouri does tons of stunts and twists with their D-line. Coach (Dave) Steckel loves to keep you guessing that way, so I think that’s the biggest challenge in this game: how does Toledo account for Missouri’s defensive ends?”
Q: What do you notice as the biggest differences from Missouri last year to this year?
Kessenich: “Looking at Missouri’s schedule right now, I’m kind of anticipating somewhere in the eight-win range, somewhere around 8-4. Quarterback is still a work in progress. Maty Mauk is still maturing. He can get aggressive at times. I think he’s got to develop more of a pocket presence. When he’s given a clean pocket, he throws a gorgeous deep ball. You saw that last week, but you’re going to have to rein him in sometimes. I think he’s a little on the aggressive side.
“Darius White has big-play ability, but they’ve got to develop another receiver — whether it’s a slot, a guy like Jimmie Hunt, or using Marcus Murphy, who’s such a threat. I loved what I saw from Russell Hansbrough, so I think from a skill position, they’re OK. The offensive line is OK. I think that’s a step back from last year.
“Then defensively, I thought the front was good. The linebackers are a little on the inexperienced side with Michael Scherer, who’s going to be a good player, but he is a first-year starter. I like the two safeties (senior Braylon Webb and junior Ian Simon), but I thought the two corners (Aarion Penton and John Gibson) were too passive last week. They were giving up big cushions and don’t have the experience you hope for.
“But I do think this is a team in Missouri that, while they didn’t play their best game last week, they can move forward off that game. I still look at their schedule and see an eight-win team, maybe nine if they can steal one on the road.”
Q: Rumors are swirling about the largest crowd in Glass Bowl history. Do you sense genuine excitement among Toledo’s faithful about getting a crack at an SEC team on their turf?
Kessenich: “It’s the first time an SEC (team) has visiting the Glass Bowl, and this building’s been up since 1937 (the first season it was used). I don’t know if it’s going to be a record, because they had to scale down the amount of people they could let in due to fire codes, believe it not. But the place will be fired up. It’s a noon game; it’s a big game. … This is a huge opportunity. It’s not every day they get to play a noon (Eastern time) game on ESPN.
“I sense the excitement here and it’s a team that, under Matt Campbell, has won some nice games. They were in the hunt last year for the MAC title and then lost to Northern Illinois and kind of spit the bit against Akron in the last game of the year and didn’t get a bowl bid at 7-5. They ended last season with such a bad taste in their mouth, I think this is a team that has pointed to this game all offseason.
“They know how close it was last year. Three turnovers really ruined any opportunity at an upset last year at Missouri, but now they’ve got them on their homecourt. They feel like they can win this game. They really do believe they can.”
Q: So, what’s your prediction?
Kessenich: “I’m tempted to take Toledo in this game. My prediction, though — I think Missouri’s speed, if Maty Mauk can be clean with the ball, makes the difference and Missouri wins in a very close ballgame. I expect a high-scoring game and both offenses will have a lot of success. But I’d have to go with Missouri in a close, high-scoring game.”