After overcoming a slow start to put away an FCS opponent last weekend, Cincinnati likely can't afford to be sluggish early on in its first true road game.
Looking to remain undefeated, the No. 21 Bearcats face a stiff test Saturday night against a Toledo team trying to win seven straight games for the first time in more than a decade.
Cincinnati (5-0) is off to its best start since the 2009 team opened with 12 straight wins, but it didn't look like an undefeated group for the first half of last Saturday's 49-17 win over Fordham. The Bearcats allowed the Rams to run the game's first 22 offensive plays and scored just one offensive touchdown en route to a 14-6 halftime lead.
One week earlier, Cincinnati held a 24-14 lead at the break before shutting Miami of Ohio down in the final 30 minutes of a 52-14 win.
The hosts asserted themselves in the second half of their latest contest by opening with three straight touchdowns and methodically dominating with long drives. Munchie Legaux finished 15 of 24 for 262 yards with two touchdowns, including one to Travis Kelce, who caught three passes for 101 yards.
"We know we're a good team and we have to be mentally locked in at all times," said receiver Danny Milligan, who has a TD catch in two straight games.
It's imperative Cincinnati remains focused in its first meeting with Toledo (6-1) since the Rockets' 23-16 victory in the 2001 Motor City Bowl. Though the Bearcats beat Virginia Tech 27-24 last month in Landover, Md., their first true road game could be a difficult one if they again start slow.
"Our margin of error is very small,'' Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing. We're not good enough to just show up and beat them. We have to follow the formula, the plan.''
A perennial Mid-American Conference power, Toledo has averaged 39.7 points in the six games that followed a 24-17 season-opening overtime loss at Arizona. The Rockets can win seven in a row for the first time since a 12-game streak bridging the 2000 and '01 seasons if they're able to snap a seven-game skid against ranked opponents that dates to a 49-30 victory over No. 21 Northern Illinois on Nov. 15, 2003.
"With the tradition Cincinnati has built, it will be a great test for our football team," coach Matt Campbell told Toledo's official website. "It's a huge football game. We know it's a great opportunity for our program."
Toledo boasts three of the nation's top offensive performers in quarterback Terrance Owens, receiver Bernard Reedy and running back David Fleullen. Owens averages 298.8 total yards per game, while Reedy has 52 receptions for 666 yards with five touchdowns and Fluellen has rushed for 792 and nine scores.
Fluellen registered 188 yards and two scores on 24 carries in last Saturday's 52-47 win at Eastern Michigan. Reedy caught 11 balls for a career-high 237 yards with two touchdowns and had an 89-yard kickoff return for a TD.
Though the Rockets rank 26th nationally in total offense, putting up 475.0 yards per game, they allow an average of 477.9 yards - 111th in the country - and 28.1 points.
That could spell trouble against a Cincinnati team that has scored 101 points in its last two games. Legaux has averaged 265 passing yards while throwing seven touchdowns and one interception in the last three games.
"Every week is a big challenge for us," Campbell said. "We have to continue to worry about Toledo getting better."