Ely, playing in his final game as a Rocket, returned to his native Florida to lead the Rockets to victory in Jason Candle's first game as head coach. Candle, a seven-year assistant at UT, took over the head coaching position on Dec. 2 after Matt Campbell assumed the head coaching position at Iowa State.
"Ever since last year, I’ve cherished every moment like it’s my last," Ely said. "This was my last game, and I thought I played like it -- thought these guys played like it. What a great football team, what a great team win, and what a great effort all the way around."
Ely, a transfer from Alabama, was named the game's Offensive MVP. He completed 20-of-28 passes despite throwing in driving rain most of the night.
“It was really difficult, especially as a quarterback. But in the end, that’s reality and you’ve got to deal with the situation," Ely said. "Both teams are effected and have to go through it. You have to find the best spot with the ball and go for it.”
Junior Kareem Hunt led the running attack with 79 yards and two TDs. Sophomore Cody Thompson had four receptions for 119 yards, including a big 80-yard score in the fourth quarter.
While Ely provided the Rockets (10-2) with leadership on offense, the Toledo defense set the tone of the game, holding the Owls to just 17 points and a mere 67 yards of total offense in the first half. Sophomore Ja'Wuan Woodley, who had a key safety in the first half, was named the game's Defensive MVP. Seniors Chase Murdock and Trent Voss paced the front seven with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively.
The game was in doubt until the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Toledo broke open a close game with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Ely to Thompson to make the score 19-9 with 12:41 left. A Hunt one-yard TD with less than six minutes left gave UT a comfortable 25-9 lead.
However, Temple (10-4) came back and put together an 11-play, 68-yard drive and converted a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 25-17. The Owl onside kick that followed was battled over for two minutes before UT's Thompson came out with the ball. Hunt then broke free for a 41-yard score to give Toledo its final margin. A last-gasp Temple drive ended on downs with 40 seconds left.
Toledo's defense controlled the action in the first half, holding Temple to just 67 yards of total offense, 34 yards rushing and 33 passing. UT's offense moved the ball effectively through the air, as Ely hit on 15-of-21 passes for 168 yards.
Nevertheless, Temple got on the board first with a 29-yard field goal by Austin Jones with 1:13 left in the first quarter, completing a 13-play drive that covered 40 yards.
Following a career-long 64-yard punt by Nick Ellis that pushed Temple back to its own nine-yard line, the Rockets' defense came up with a momentum-swinging play. Sophomore linebacker Ja'Wuan Woodley cracked Jahad Thomas at the three-yard line, causing a fumble that went out the back of end zone for a safety.
Toledo subsequently took over at its own 45-yard line on the ensuing free kick, setting the stage for UT's first touchdown. On the fifth play of the drive, Corey Jones took a short pass from Ely and fought through three tackles for a 26-yard touchdown to put Toledo up, 9-3, with 12:16 left in the second quarter.
The Rockets deftly managed the clock late in the first half, using up all of the 1:10 that remained when it received a Temple punt on its own 42-yard line. Jameson Vest finished the drive with a 38-yard field goal to give UT a 12-3 edge at the break.
Temple opened the second half with its best drive of the game, moving 67 yards in eight plays to set up a 25-yard field goal by Jones. That cut the UT lead to 12-6. Following a three-and-out by the Rockets, Temple came right back with another Jones field goal, this time from 35 yards out, further trimming the lead to 12-9 with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
Both teams traded a pair of punts until Toledo broke through with the biggest play of the game. Ely hit Thompson on a play-action pass over the middle and Thompson sped away from the Owl defender for an 80-yard touchdown to give UT a 10-point cushion, 19-9, with 12:41 to play.
Toledo's defense followed with another huge play on Temple's next possession. Senior safety Rolan Milligan broke up a P.J. Walker pass and senior cornerback Juwan Hayes grabbed his first career interception on the UT 26-yard line to stop an Owl drive with 11:17 left.
Toledo scored two more times the rest of the way, to just one TD for Temple, giving the Rockets their second consecutive bowl win and their first 10-win season since 2001.