Toledo came out on fire in the big inter-divisional showdown with MAC East leader Buffalo, then held off a late Bulls?? rally in a 51-41 victory at the Glass Bowl Tuesday night.
The victory was the fifth straight for Toledo (7-3, 5-1 MAC) while Buffalo (7-3, 5-1 MAC) suffered its first league defeat. It also helped the Rockets kept pace with Ball State and Northern Illinois in the MAC West. Buffalo, which entered the game in first place in MAC East and riding a seven-game winning streak, falls into a tie for first with Bowling Green.
The game was not quite as close as the final score indicated, though Buffalo did make the game interesting in the waning moments. Toledo, which held a 31-0 halftime lead, dominated every facet of the game throughout the first 31 minutes, building the lead to 38-0 early in the second half before Buffalo got its offense in gear. The Rocket offense moved almost at will in the first half, scoring on four of its first five possessions, while the UT defense stopped Buffalo on all eight of its first-half possessions. Buffalo outgained the Rockets in total yards for the game, 601-552, but Toledo held a substantial edge in the first half, 350-131.
Senior Bernard Reedy caught just three passes, but gained 149 yards on those catches. Included in his total were touchdown receptions of 59 and 56 yards, as well as another catch of 34 yards. Freshman running back Kareem Hunt, filling in for the injured David Fluellen, rushed for a season-high 186 yards, 148 of which came in the first 30 minutes. Senior quarterback Terrance Owens was sharp when he needed to be, connecting on 11-of-20 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns.
On a night in which the temperatures dipped into the 20??s, the Rockets came out blazing, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions to jump out to a 21-0 first quarter lead. Owens began the onslaught with a 59-yard strike over the middle to Reedy, who pulled the pass in with his fingertips and changed directions to avoid the safety on the way to the end zone.
The next UT possession featured a heavy dose of Hunt, as the freshman rushed seven times for 35 yards in the nine-play drive. Mixed in was a 34-yard reception by Reedy, and a four-yard rush by Owens for the touchdown.
Toledo made it 21-0 on a 53-yard jolt by freshman Damion Jones-Moore, who broke one tackle, dodged a would-be tackler and turned on the jets into the end zone.
Hunt was the featured back once again on the Rockets?? fourth touchdown drive. He rushed nine times for 53 yards??including a 15-yard TD rush-- in an 11-play, 69-yard drive to give the Rockets a comfortable 28-0 lead with 9:43 to play in the half.
The halftime score would have stayed that way except for a trick play gone wrong for the Bulls. With time running out in the half, Buffalo tried a hook-and-ladder play at midfield that included multiple laterals, the third of which resulted in a fumble. Toledo??s Marquise Moore scooped it up and ran it back to the UB 15-yard line. Jeremiah Detmer knocked home the 32-yard field goal with no time on the clock to give Toledo a 31-0 halftime lead.
Two plays into the third quarter, the Rockets made it 38-0 on a 56-yard touchdown from Owens to Reedy. Buffalo scored twice in the third quarter to trim the lead. Fred Lee caught a 19-yard TD pass from Joe Licata and Branden Oliver rushed for a six-yard score to cut the lead to 38-14.
Toledo pushed the lead to 41-14 on a 42-yard field goal by Jeremiah Detmer with 11:59 left. Buffalo made it 41-21 on a 17-yard pass from Licata to Alex Neutz. But on Toledo??s very next play from scrimmage, fourth-string running back Ricky Pringle blasted straight up the middle for a 44-yard score to make the score, 48-21.
Buffalo made the Rockets uncomfortable by scoring three touchdowns in the final seven minutes, the last a three-yard run by Anthone Taylor with 48 seconds left to cut the lead to 51-41. But Buffalo??s attempt at a two-point conversion was broken up by free safety Chaz Whittaker, effectively and finally settling the issue.
The Rockets return to the Glass Bowl on Wednesday, Nov. 20 to face undefeated Northern Illinois in a matchup that could determine the MAC West Division champion.
Courtesy: Toledo Athletics