On a cold, sunny and windy afternoon at the Glass Bowl on Black Friday, sophomore wide receiver and Springfield graduate Eric Page was on fire as his five touchdowns fueled Toledo’s 42-31 victory over Central Michigan on Senior Day to close out the regular season. His team will now prepare for a likely bowl game for the first time in five years, which will be determined by Dec. 5 at the latest.
“I just want to be around this team,” Toledo head coach Tim Beckman said. “To me, it really doesn’t matter where we go. As I mentioned before, my wife doesn’t like me home in December, so now I have the opportunity to fulfill her dreams, and that’s not being home in December.”
Page finished the game with 372 all-purpose yards. He racked up 127 yards on 12 catches with two touchdowns, threw one touchdown pass for 28 yards to redshirt freshman quarterback Terrance Owens, had one punt return for two yards and three kickoff returns for 215 yards, running two back for scores of 99 and 95 yards, respectively.
“It seems like we talk about this each and every week about Eric Page,” Beckman said. “Eric Page is a phenomenal player. He’s got a great surrounding cast. When we need to make a play, Eric seems to make those and does a great job not just offensively, but on special teams also.”
“It felt good because we got the win at the end,” Page said of his performance. “I think we’re just excited to play another game.”
In his third career start, Owens finished with career highs in completions and yards after going 24-of-32 for 304 yards and three touchdowns, also on the receiving end of another score on his catch and run from Page in the fourth quarter that put his team up by 18.
“The seniors, they all believed in me,” Owens said on becoming the starting quarterback after sophomore quarterback Austin Dantin got hurt. “They gave me confidence that I could step up and execute.”
The Rockets (8-4, 7-1 Mid-American Conference) wasted no time getting on the board in their contest with the Chippewas, scoring on their third play from scrimmage on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Owens to junior wide receiver Kenny Stafford to go up 7-0 with 13:39 remaining in the first quarter. It didn’t take long for Central Michigan (3-9, 2-6 MAC) to answer, however, as Ohio native Ryan Radcliff orchestrated an 11-play, 71-yard scoring drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run from Carl Volny to tie the game at seven apiece by the 8:54 mark of the first quarter.
Thirteen seconds later, Toledo went back up by seven after Page returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to the house with 8:41 remaining in the first, and his team ended the quarter with a 14-7 advantage. In the second quarter, Page caught a pass on the right side from Owens and outhustled two defenders on his way to the end zone for the nine-yard score to give the Rockets a 21-7 lead with 11:56 left on the clock. Just over three minutes later, Toledo went up 28-7 following a 25-yard strike from Owens to Page for each player’s third touchdown of the game by the 8:49 mark. The Chippewas countered with a 10-play, 74-yard scoring drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run from Zurlon Tipton to make it 28-14 with 3:31 on the board, and that score would remain by halftime.
Central Michigan cut the Rockets’ lead to 28-17 at the 10:42 mark of the third quarter after a 33-yard field goal from David Harman. However, Page again answered with another kickoff return for a touchdown 13 seconds later—this time on a 95-yarder—to put Toledo up 35-17. In the fourth quarter, the Chippewas’ Vince Agnew blocked freshman punter Vince Penza’s punt attempt and Lorenzo White recovered the football in the end zone to make it 35-24 with 13:02 left to play in the game. Facing second and two from the Central Michigan 28-yard line on the Rockets’ next possession, Owens threw to Page on the right side, who then threw back to Owens, and Owens ran the rest of the way to paydirt for the 42-24 lead at the 10:39 mark.
The Chippewas hung around after another touchdown run from Tipton on their ensuing drive from two yards out made it 42-31 with 7:23 on the clock. On Toledo’s next possession, Penza’s punt attempt was blocked by Kyle Zelinsky and recovered by White at the Rockets’ 15-yard line. However, junior defensive tackle Malcolm Riley sacked Radcliff on the first play of Central Michigan’s ensuing drive, causing Radcliff to fumble. Fellow junior defensive tackle Johnie Roberts recovered to prevent the comeback and seal the win.
“It’s been a blessing,” senior linebacker Archie Donald said of how the final season of his college career has turned out. “I came to Toledo because it’s a winning program. Going to a bowl game is big, and that’s what we look forward to. It’s going to be great to come together as a family and play one more game.”