MOBILE, Ala – Arkansas State had its Freddi Knighten, but Toledo had its Kareem Hunt – not to mention a dominant offensive line and defense that posted two of its own scores in a 63-44 Toledo Rockets win over A-State Sunday night in the GoDaddy Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Knighten threw for five touchdowns to lead the Red Wolves, who never got a lead in what quickly became a wild contest. UT scored on the first play from scrimmage as Treyvon Hester penetrated on an option play to knock the ball loose from Knightly at the Red Wolves 20. In the scramble that ensued, the ball was sent backward several times. Toledo linebacker Trent Voss was finally able to secure it just before it went out the back of the end zone. Along with his score, the junior had a game-high 10 tackles, including a career-high four tackles for loss. The combination allowed him to take home Defensive MVP honors.
Voss’ score was actually one of two fumbles returned for touchdowns by Toledo defensive players. Allen Covington, a 6-2, 275-pound junior defensive end, rumbled 67 yards with a fumble just before halftime.
Following its first-play debacle, Arkansas State quickly pulled even when Booker Mays scored on a 44-yard pass play from Knighten to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive. That made it 7-7 just 90 seconds into the contest.
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There was much more to come from Hunt, who ran for a bowl-record 271 yards and five touchdowns to earn game MVP honors. Three plays after a Red Wolves punt, the 5-11, 215-pound sophomore ripped off a 44-yard touchdown to give Toledo a 21-7 lead.
A-State responded with its own big play. Three plays into its next drive, Knighten hit Tres Houston on a 66-yard TD strike. Between them, the two teams had combined for 35 points before the first quarter was done.
Scoring settled down briefly, with Logan Spry’s 31-yard field goal midway through the period providing the only points. Toledo, however, got two more touchdowns late in the quarter.
Hunt tallied his third TD of the half with 2:28 remaining on a 29-yard run. The other score came courtesy of a Jordan Martin sack. When the ball popped into the air, Covington was in perfect position to catch it and set sail. His 67-yard return and Jeremiah Detmer’s PAT gave UT a 35-17 halftime advantage.
When Hunt scored on a six-yard run with 8:15 remaining in the third period, Toledo had its largest lead, 42-17. Arkansas State, however, then gave UT a couple doses of its own medicine. The first was a long score with Knighten’s 55-yard pass to Mays. The second was a defensive score in the form of a 94-yard interception return. That closed the gap to 42-31 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas State reached pay dirt twice in the final period. Knighten hit Mays on a 27 yarder at 10:08 and Darion Griswold scored on a three-yard pass with 2:17 remaining.
Knighten completed 23-of-31 for 403 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. J. D. McKissic led the Red Wolves in receptions with seven for 99 yards. Mays pulled down five receptions for 138 yards and three TDs.
Running back Michael Gordan, who eclipsed 100 yards five times in the regular season and finished with 1,000 rushing overall, was held to 36 yards on 10 carries. A-State picked up 65 yards on the ground while playing from behind nearly all evening.
Toledo, ranked 13th among FBS teams in rushing (256.4 ypg) , ran up a total of 365 rushing yards against A-State. All seven TDs came via the ground game. In addition to Hunt’s five TDs and 271 yards, Jones-More had 103 yards with two scores.
Woodside, meanwhile, threw enough to keep the defense thinking. He completed 21-of-27 passes for 176 yards and the one interception.
Arkansas State, playing in its fourth straight bowl and first under the same head coach who guided the Red Wolves through their regular season, dropped to 7-6 with the loss.
Toledo, registering its third straight win and fifth in six games, finished the season at 9-4 overall (7-1 MAC).