TOLEDO, OH – Sophomore running back Kareem Hunt rushed for a career-best 198 yards and a touchdown as the Toledo Rockets came back from a 20-7 deficit early in the second quarter to defeat the Massachusetts Minutemen 42-35 Saturday afternoon at the Glass Bowl.
Toledo (5-3, 4-0 MAC) rebounded after a 37-30 loss at Iowa State on October 11. With the victory, their fourth in the last five games, the Rockets remained the only undefeated team in Mid-American Conference play and remain atop the Western Division.
“There were a lot of twists and turns in this game.” UT head coach Matt Campbell said. “I am proud of our kids staying the course with our game plan and what we were trying to do.”
“Our guys battled all the way.” UMass head man Mark Whipple said. “I told them I was proud of them. We made a couple of mistakes, but Toledo had a lot to do with those mistakes.”
It was a matchup of two of the highest scoring and yardage gainers in the MAC. By the time the game clock hit zeros, the teams had combined for 87 points and 1017 yards of offense in front of 20,104 patrons on homecoming weekend.
The offensive fireworks began on the game’s first possession, coming from the right arm of UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel as the engineered an 80-yard drive in 14 plays. The first of many scores was a 15-yard pass to junior WR Jalen Williams over the middle. However, freshman PK Logan Laurent missed the extra point giving the Minutemen only a 6-0 lead.
After the UMass defense forced a three-and-out, it gave the ball back to the offense on the Minutemen 45 yard line. Five plays later, they were back in the end zone as Frohnapfel connected with Williams again, this time from 35 yards away on a deep route where Williams made a beautiful over the shoulder catch for the score. Laurent made the extra point for a 13-0 lead.
Frohnapfel, the fifth-year transfer from Marshall, would end the afternoon completing 28-of-55 passes for 438 yards. He equaled his career and school record with five touchdown passes. Williams would end the game with six catches for 97 yards and a pairs of scores, the first of his career.
After the touchdown, sophomore QB Logan Woodside got the UT offense in high gear. Moving the football for the first time on a sunny, breezy afternoon, Toledo put together a 12-play 75-yard drive. Mixing the run and medium pass game, the Rockets reached the UMass 14. From there, freshman RB Terry Swanson ran a sweep to the left side for the touchdown. Swanson, who had been the main cog in the running game the past three games, had 97 yards on the day with a pair of scores.
On the first play of the second quarter, Woodside was intercepted by junior SS Khary Bailey-Smith, who returned the ball to the UT 30. From there, it took Frohnapfel just five plays to get into the end zone, connecting with redshirt freshman WR Shakur Nesmith over the middle from 15 yards out to restore the UMass advantage to 13 points at 20-7.
The Rockets revved up the offense again on the ensuing possession. Getting the ball at their own six yard line, Woodside engineered a 94-yard drive. Hunt was the main producer on the drive with 44 yards on the ground. With the ball on the UMass 14, Woodside found sophomore TE Michael Roberts in the end zone for the score to bring the deficit back to six points at 20-14.
Woodside, who moved into a starting role after junior Melvin Ely was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the Rockets 49-24 home loss to Missouri, registered 225 yards through the air, completing 20-of-34 passes for three touchdowns along with two picks.
The Minutemen had a chance to add to their lead on possession following the touchdown. Upon reaching the UT 23, the visitors faced a fourth down, Whipple decided not to try a 40-yard field-goal and instead went for the first down. Needing eight yards, Frohnapfel’s pass was incomplete.
Toledo took the ball to begin the third quarter and came up with its first lead. From their own 16, Woodside and offense used nine plays to move 84 yards. The trip ended with a pass to sophomore WR Corey Jone, who broke a tackle and went down the left sideline 42 yards for the touchdown. Jeremiah Detmer’s extra point put the hosts up 21-20.
UMass also moved the ball on its first possession of the period as Frohnapfel guided his team from their own 25 to the UT 21 where the drive stalled. On this occasion, Whipple decided on a field goal, after a five-yard delay of game penalty, Laurent missed from 43-yards out.
When the Minutemen got the ball back after a Rockets punt, Frohnapfel was intercepted by junior FS Chaz Whittaker. He returned it to the UMass 47. From there, the two-play touchdown drive belonged to Hunt. The second snap resulted in a 36-yard run where he blasted through the hole up the middle and found the end zone to extend UT’s lead to 28-20.
Hunt had missed the last three games due to a high ankle sprain. He did practice the week prior to the game and is still dealing with some pain in the ankle. “I just tried to be patient and wait for everything to open us.” Hunt said.
When asked about Hunt’s performance, Whipple said “I thought he was the difference in the game. He is the real deal.”
To say the fourth quarter was frantic would be an understatement.
The period began with the Minutemen tying the score as the offense found its rhythm. Frohnapfel put together a 10-play, 84-yard drive. From the UT 36, he flushed out of the pocket but somehow got the ball to junior Tajae Sharpe The talented receiver managed to get one foot inbounds down in the right corner of the end zone. Sharpe, one of the top recievers in the MAC, finished the day with seven receptions for 75 yards and the score.
Down by two points, Whipple decided to go for the tie. It was successful as Frohnapfel found junior RB Terry Mills for the conversion, making the score 28-28 just three minutes into the final period.
The Rockets offense countered that touchdown with one of their own. Tolledo moved 75 yards in 12 plays, using the running of Hunt and Swanson. When UT reached the UMass six, Woodside found senior WR Dwight Macon with a beautiful catch in the end zone as the home team regained the lead, 35-28.
Just one play after the touchdown, UMass struck paydirt again with a big play. Frohnapfel found junior TE Jean Sifrin over the middle in stride. He broke a tackle and went down the left sideline for a 76 yard touchdown to tie the game again at 35-35.
The score was the fifth touchdown pass for Frohnapfel, tying the school mark he set earlier in the season in a home loss to Bowling Green. Sifrin, who came into the game second to Sharpe in receptions for the Minutemen, ended the day with six catches for 185 yards.
UT junior LB Sylvestre said of Frohnaple, “He is one of the best quarterbacks we have faced. He made good throws and great decisions. We tried to get to him with pressure, (but) he just stood in there and made the throws.”
After an exchange of punts, a rarity in this game, the Rocketrs took over the ball on their own 20 and began a drive a game-winning drive. It would take seven plays to move the 80 yards. The key play was Woodside finding Roberts at the sideline for 36 yards. Two plays later, Swanson swept the left side 19 yards for the touchdown with 34 seconds to play.
On their last possession of the game, needing a touchdown to force overtime, Frohnapfel completed a pass to Sifrin on a 3rd-and-10 for 23 yards. That got the ball to midfield. However, any hope for the Minutemen evaporated when freshman CB Trevon Mathis intercepted Frohnapfel’s next pass.
Toledo travels to Kent State on November 4 to play the Golden Flashes while UMass does not play until November 12th when Ball State comes to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.