Rockets head to bowl game with conference win
DETROIT (AP) - Jason Candle had every reason in the world to be conservative at the end of the first half of Saturday's Mid-American Conference championship game.
His Toledo Rockets had a 21-point lead, and were facing a first down at their own 3-yard line with 1:39 left in the second quarter. The percentage play was to run out the clock, especially as they were getting the ball to start the second half.
Instead, Candle put the ball into the hands of quarterback Logan Woodside and he responded in a 45-28 victory.
"I've got the best passer in the history of this school," Candle said. "You have to trust your quarterback to go for it in that spot, and I have that faith in Logan."
After Terry Swanson ran the ball to the Toledo 39, Woodside took over. With eight seconds left in the half, he finished off the 97-yard drive with his third touchdown pass, hitting Jon'Vea Johnson for 27 yards and a 28-0 lead.
"Terry had a lot to do with that drive, because his runs got us out of the hole," said Woodside, who finished with four touchdown passes. "After that, Coach gave me a chance to make some plays."
The Rockets built the lead to 38-0 on their way to the victory.
"They played a little softer in the second half, because they knew they were so far ahead," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "Our guys played as hard as they could, and we got some quick scores late, but Toledo still won by a good margin."
Swanson finished with 180 yards and two touchdowns.
"Logan is so good that he opens up all kinds of space for the running game," he said. "Add in a great offensive line, and it makes my life a lot easier."
Receivers Diontae Johnson (118 yards) and Jon'Vea Johnson (103) combined for 221 yards and three touchdowns for Toledo (11-2), which won its third conference championship game and first since 2004.
"When you have offensive balance, not just with the run and the pass, but two receivers getting the ball and making plays, you are going to be tough to stop," Candle said. "We have great players, and it is our job to find ways to get them all involved."
Akron (7-6) forced five turnovers but couldn't overcome the halftime deficit in their second loss to Toledo this season. They were hurt in the first half by a 48-yard punt return by Danzel McKinley-Lewis and a 36-yard return of a blocked field goal by Josh Teachey.
Woodside threw a touchdown pass in each of the first two quarters to Diontae Johnson, while Swanson rushed for 61 yards and another score before halftime. Toledo outgained Akron 326-98 in the half.
"You can't make mistakes, especially in the kicking game, and stay close to that team," Bowden said. "Their offense is too prolific to give them any extra drives."
Akron didn't score until Manny Morgan's rushing touchdown with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. The Rockets finished with a 561-396 edge in yardage.
Akron: The Zips won a weak MAC East division, but Saturday's result wasn't a surprise. Akron lost 48-21 when they played the Rockets in Toledo on Oct. 22, giving up 626 yards of offense, and couldn't slow them down Saturday on an NFL field.
Toledo: The Rockets were dominant on Saturday, and they've scored 148 points in their past three games, but they can't afford five turnovers in their bowl game.
The Rockets hadn't won 11 games since going 11-0-1 in 1995, and a bowl-game victory would tie the school record of 12 wins, set in 1970 and tied the next year.
"This is the 100th year of Toledo football, and I just told my team that today guarantees that they will always be an important part of that history," Candle said.
SECOND CHANCE AT WOODSIDE
Woodside threw three interceptions in 12 regular-season games, but was picked off twice by the Zips. Ulysees Gilbert, who was named the game's defensive MVP, said facing Woodside for a second time was a factor.
"We've had two full weeks this season to study what he does," said Gilbert, who intercepted a pass in the second quarter. "Football is more mental than physical, so with that much time to learn what he does, we were able to read him and react a little faster."
Akron: The Zips will learn in the next 24 hours where they will be headed for the third bowl game in school history. They played in the 2005 Motor City Bowl and 2015 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Toledo: Along with the conference championship, the Rockets will play in a bowl game for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in eight years.
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