Rookie coaches eye finale win

By Hyun Moon

Toledo head football coach Gary Pinkel has a lot in common with NIU coach Charlie Sadler.

Both coaches will be completing their first seasons as head coaches when the 4-5-1 Rockets host the 2-8 Huskies this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Both were also assistant coaches for prominent football universities, and both could finish their head coaching debuts with losing records.

But Pinkel, a former Washington offensive coordinator, has a chance to avoid sharing the dubious honor which Sadler has already clinched.

“It would be nice to end up .500,” Pinkel said, “but I don’t care if your team is 10-0 or 0-10, if you’re competitive, you’ll want to win no matter what. And I would like to think my team is competitive.”

Toledo, which tied for Mid-American Conference honors last year, has a 4-3-1 record in the MAC. In those three losses, Pinkel said he learned his biggest lesson as a head coach.

“You’ve got to be able to win games in the fourth quarter,” Pinkel said. “We’ve had chances to win those three games and could’ve had a share of the league title, but we just didn’t execute.”

Pinkel said the fourth quarter could determine the outcome against the Huskies who have played national powers Florida, Fresno State and Iowa, and also the likes of Kansas State and Louisiana Tech.

“Talk about a tough schedule,” Pinkel exclaimed. “I know they have a better team than their record indicates. I asked one of my players, ‘What do you think of Northern’ (and) he replied, ‘Coach, they’re very physical, they’ll come out and hit you.'”

The Toledo offense is led by quarterback Kevin Meger who ranks 31st nationally in total offense of 198-yard average. The Huskies also need to be wary of tailback Steve Cowan who rushed for 102 yards against Eastern Michigan in a 21-14 Rocket win last week.

“Toledo has a diversified attack on offense,” Sadler said. “They gave us a lot of different formations to prepare for this week.”

Toledo’s 4-3 defense, which is led by tackle Darrell Mossburg who has 123 takedowns this year, ranks 28th nationally.