NASSAU, Bahamas — On their first full day in the Bahamas, Middle Tennessee and Toledo got down to business with morning practices before trading their football pants for swimming trunks in the annual Beach Bash in the evening.
“It was awesome out here. We are not accustomed to 80 degrees this time of year,” Middle Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Brent Dearmon said. “Our guys have been more used to 45, 50 degrees back at Middle Tennessee, so getting down here and getting used to this weather has been really nice. We practiced with palm trees in the background, beautiful stadium in the background…I thought our guys did a good job of bringing energy today.”
Middle Tennessee has put together a solid offense by committee. Four quarterbacks have thrown more than 40 passes, seven rushers have had at least 20 carries, and eight receivers have made more than 20 catches.
“[I’m pleased at] looking back and seeing how many guys we played,” Dearmon added. “We played four quarterbacks. We have had six different offensive line match-ups that we’ve put out there with injuries and COVID. Being able to see how many guys we put on the field and be in a position to win a bowl has been awesome for our guys.”
Even with that distribution of touches, the Blue Raiders are averaging nearly 30 points per game. They have accounted for 26 touchdowns through the air and 13 on the ground, but are ready for a challenge presented by a stingy Toledo defense.
“I know they are a good team,” MTSU receiver Jarrin Pierce said. “I know that we respect them. We will not underestimate anyone. I know they have a good defense. We will be prepared for anything that is thrown our way.”
The Rockets have a top-30 scoring defense this year, conceding just 21 points per game. Toledo has also tallied seven interceptions, recovered eight fumbles, and notched 35 sacks.
“We have to tackle on the perimeter. They have a very skilled team and a lot of quickness at receiver,” Vince Kehres, Toledo defensive coordinator, said. “They get the ball out to those guys on the perimeter with screens and jet sweeps. I think the key is being able to eliminate those big plays by leveraging the ball and tackling in the perimeter.”
Toledo linebacker Dyontae Johnson was at the 2018 edition of the Bahamas Bowl, and knows that the football comes first.
“I actually talked to the younger guys before to make sure we are locked in as far as the business aspect of it goes. We need to lock in and pay attention to details. When it is time to lock in, we lock in.”
Toledo Bounces Back at Beach Bash
Back in 2018, the Rockets went 0-for-2, first falling in the dance contest at the Beach Bash before dropping the more important Bahamas Bowl game.
In a reversal of fortune, Toledo picked up its first victory of the 2021 bowl week by claiming the dance-off, sparked by a win-sealing performance by graduate assistant coach Tim Bennett. The Rockets hope to carry that momentum into Friday’s game.
The teams enjoyed a perfect evening at the Lagoon and West Beach at Atlantis with a picturesque sunset. Student-athletes were treated to beach volleyball and dinner to cap off their first full day on Paradise Island.