Bowling Green, OH - Junior running back Kareem Hunt rushed for a season-high 153 yards and two touchdowns and the Rocket defense forced five turnovers as Toledo defeated its arch-rivals from Bowling Green, 44-28, Tuesday night.
It was the sixth consecutive victory for Toledo in the "Battle of I-75. More importantly, it kept Toledo (9-1, 6-1 MAC) in the thick of race for the Mid-American Conference West Division title. The Rockets are now a half-game ahead of Northern Illinois (5-1) and Western Michigan (5-1).
Toledo's defense held Bowling Green to 368 yards of total offense, 216 below its average of 584. Most important was the three fumble recoveries and two interceptions by the Rockets that either stopped BGSU drives or set up Toledo scores. The game was sealed by senior cornerback Cheatham Norrils' second interception of the game with 1:55 left.
Toledo's defense set up the game's first score when Norrils picked off a pass that deflected off a BGSU receiver, giving UT the ball at the 27-yard line. Hunt ran the ball four times, the last a five-yard scoring play that put the Rockets up, 7-0.
After a three-and-out by the Falcons, Hunt struck again, setting up a score with a 41-yard run to the BG 26-yard line. Two plays later, Swanson hit paydirt from 23 yards out to make the score 14-0 just five minutes into the contest.
Following another three-and-out by BGSU, the Rockets moved down the field on the ground but this time Hunt was stopped at the two-yard line on third-and-one. UT settled for a 20-yard field goal by Jameson Vest to go up 17-0 with 3:10 left in the opening quarter.
Bowling Green nearly broke through on its next series when Johnson scrambled for a 45-yard touchdown. But the play was called back due to holding, and on the next play Chase Murdock forced a fumble after a short reception. Trent Voss recovered it on the UT 46-yard line, setting up a six-play drive that culminated in a 22-yard field goal by Vest.
The Falcons finally got on the board with a nine-play, 65-yard drive that was finished off by a five-yard TD run up the middle by Fred Coppet, cutting the lead to 20-7. Vest then made it three in a row with a 35-yard field goal to extend the Rocket lead to 23-7.
Toledo's next score was set up by a 21-yard punt return by Corey Jones with 15 yards tacked on for a late hit, giving the Rockets the ball on the BG 39-yard line. Three plays later Hunt barreled in from 11 yards out to push the lead to 30-7. Bowling Green countered with a five-yard TD grab by Gehrig Dieter with 1:34 left in the half that was initialing ruled incomplete but was overturned by the replay official.
The second half began as a mirror opposite of the first half. Ely was picked off at the BG 32-yard line on the third play of Toledo's first drive, setting the stage for a three-yard TD pass from Johnson to Dieter, making the score 30-21 just two-and-a-half minutes into the half.
But Toledo's defense came up with another big play, as Allen Covington sacked Johnson and forced a fumble that was picked up by Orion Jones and returned to the BG 10-yard line. Ely scored the first rushing touchdown of his career from eight yards out to push the Rockets lead to 37-21. Bowling Green took advantage of a Toledo unsportsmanlike penalty after the play that forced UT to kick off from the 20-yard line. Bowling Green started at its own 43-yard line, then moved 57 yards in 10 plays to cut the lead to 37-28.
Toledo's D struck once again early in the fourth quarter, as Rolan Milligan stripped Dieter after a reception that was recovered by DeJuan Rogers, the fourth turnover of the game by the Falcons. The Rockets took advantage of turnover, eating up over five minutes of the clock before scoring on a 15-yard pass from Ely to Russell. That gave the Rockets a 16-point lead, 44-28, with 8:38 to play.
Bowling Green's last real chance to get back into the game ended when Johnson's pass was broken up by Chase Murdock on fourth down with 5:45 to play. A missed Toledo field goal gave BGSU one last gasp that was extinguished when Norrils picked off Johnson for the second time.
The Rockets will play in their final regular-season game on Friday, Nov. 27 vs. Western Michigan in a game that very well could determine which West Division team goes to the MAC Championship Game vs. Bowling Green (East Division champ) on Dec. 4.
The Falcons have one remaining regular season game. They will face Ball State in Muncie Tuesday (Nov. 24).
(Courtesy of Toledo Athletics)
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