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Archive for Sunday, August 6, 2006

Toledo coach has nightmarish memories of KU

August 6, 2006

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Tom Amstutz hopes his last memory of Kansas University's football team isn't similar to his next one.

"I still have nightmares from the bowl game," Toledo's football coach said of KU's showing in the Fort Worth Bowl last year. "I thought they did a great job in the bowl game. Obviously, they have a strong team, and their team appears to be getting stronger and stronger each year.

"They whipped us really soundly the last time we played down there, so we understand how good they really are."

Some 15 months before beating Houston in the Fort Worth Bowl, the Jayhawks did take it to the Rockets in a 63-14 victory at Memorial Stadium in 2004. This fall marks Toledo's only chance at redemption where the tables will be turned.

The middle game of a 2-for-1 series has the Jayhawks heading to Toledo, Ohio, to face the Rockets in the Glass Bowl, a 26,248-seat stadium in which Toledo is 32-2 since the 2000 season.

The game's location is advantage No. 1 for the Rockets. The fact that the contest was moved up a day - to Sept. 15 - for television purposes could be advantage No. 2.

The Toledo game is KU's first non-bowl game moved away from Saturday since Mark Mangino became coach in 2002. In that same span, the Rockets have played 18 non-Saturday games, many for the purpose of getting added exposure on one of the ESPN networks.

"I think it does help," Amstutz said. "We've been on ESPN about 20 times the last four years. Now, when we go into homes, people have seen our program and know a little bit about Toledo. That's definitely helped our recruiting."

The Rockets have proven to be one of the powers of the non-BCS conferences. Amstutz never has won fewer than eight games in a season since taking over the program in 2001. The year before Amstutz became head coach, the Rockets were 10-1 under current Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. In the last 10 years, Toledo has won at least a share of the MAC West title seven times.

That type of success has drawn the interest of ESPN, but not for purposes of competing with the network's contracts with the Big Ten, Big East or ACC conferences. So the MAC, realizing what exposure can do, often works out deals to play during the week on the cable sports giant.

There's a price to pay for that, and often it's convenience that takes a hit. Toledo has played Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday games in the past four years.

The Kansas-Toledo game will be at 7 p.m. on Friday night. Mangino, for one, has said that moving the game up one day won't need a huge adjustment.

For Toledo, that minor of a schedule change is nothing.

"We adjust our schedule," Amstutz said. "What we do, we'll play several weekday games in a row, if you look at our schedule. We can always adjust to a Friday game.

"We do have a routine. Sometimes, we're not sure what day it is as we're preparing. Sometimes a Sunday will feel like a Tuesday. But our players do a good job of focusing and getting our preparation right."

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