UT vs. EMU Game RecapWritten by Nate Pentecost | | firstname.lastname@example.org
YPSILANTI, Mich. — The Rockets game this Saturday against winless Eastern Michigan was supposed to be little more than the final stepping stone to bowl eligibility.
The Eagles (0-6, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) were to offer a fine-tuning before Toledo’s most high-profile opponent of the season, No. 21 Cincinnati, visits the Glass Bowl next week.
Indeed UT (6-1, 3-0 MAC) did take bowl eligibility home from Ypsilanti, but the victor of the 52-47 shootout was unclear until the last play of the game.
With 14 ticks remaining EMU sophomore quarterback Tyler Benz dropped back from his own 31-yard line for a last-gasp, desperation heave.
Benz found senior tight end Garrett Hoskins streaking deep down the right hash mark but senior Jermaine Robinson was waiting near the UT 20. The senior safety batted the ball down to secure bowl eligibility and a sixth-straight win for Toledo.
“I give Eastern Michigan a lot of credit. I thought their kids played really hard,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell. “It took 60 minutes, but at the end of the day our kids got a really good conference win.”
The two teams combined for 1,279 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns despite playing the majority of the game through steady rain.
The Rockets took a 21-10 lead into the second half, thanks in large part to junior running back David Fluellen, who rushed for 127 yards and two scores in the first half to lock up his fourth 100-yard performance of the season. He closed out the day with 193 yards on 24 carries (8.7 yards per carry) with two touchdowns.
Fluellen, however, was far from the only player to post big numbers Saturday.
A helter-skelter third quarter resulted in 769 all-purpose yards, four touchdowns per team and 55 points, changing the complexion of a game which appeared to be well in hand.
UT junior receiver Bernard Reedy and Eagles third-string running back Bronson Hill combined for the first five touchdowns of the quarter in a span of 1:51.
Hill began the scoring spree at the 10:18 mark, busting up the middle for a 47-yard touchdown which made it a one-score game.
Reedy responded for Toledo on the ensuing kick, racing 89 yards, untouched, to paydirt.
“They were squeezing so hard towards the left,” Reedy said. “If they squeeze too hard, I’m just going to cut it back. Nobody was there but the kicker.”
Hill broke loose for a 58-yard score on the following drive, but Reedy would counter again on the Rockets first play from scrimmage.
Junior quarterback Terrance Owens found his speedy wide receiver with space down the middle of the field, connecting for a 65-yard score which gave Toledo a 35-24 lead.
Reedy finished the afternoon with a career-best 11 catches for a school record 237 yards. His 407 all-purpose yards also set a school record and is the third-most in Mid-American Conference history.
Casey McBeth set the previous mark (370 all-purpose yards) 18 years ago against Akron.
“Bernard is great player,” Campbell said. “He has the ability to make something happen every time he touches the ball.”
The back-and-forth between Reedy and Hill finished up on EMU’s next drive, when the Eagles sophomore tailback sped away for a 70-yard touchdown run. He piled on career bests with 287 rushing yards and four scores on 28 carries (10.25 yards per carry).
“My hat goes off to their running back,” Campbell said. “I thought he did some great things and had some big runs against us today.”
Redshirt freshman Alonzo Russell hauled in his first catch of the game the following drive, a 60-yard pass from Owens, which put the Rockets on top 42-30 with 6:55 until the fourth quarter.
Russell was second on the team with three receptions for 98 yards (32.7 yards per catch) and a score while Owens completed 21-of-32 passes (66 percent) with three passing touchdowns, a rushing score and two interceptions.
Owens counterpart, Benz, reached a career-high through the air as well, racking up 301 yards and a pair of touchdowns against and interception on 18-of-27 passing. Benz found senior tight end Garrett Hoskins seven times for a team-high 103 yards (14.7 yards per catch).
He hooked up with his other tight end, Tyreese Russell, on the ensuing drive for a 41-yard score before Owens capped off the wild quarter with his third touchdown, a 59-yarder to Reedy which made the score 49-37.
“[The third quarter] was up and down, it was crazy,” said UT senior linebacker Dan Molls, who grabbed an early interception and added 18 tackles to maintain his national lead. “But we kept coming back and we fought till the end and that’s what good football teams have to do. I’m proud of our offense. They put up a lot of points and we have to help them out in upcoming weeks.”
The teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter before Hill found the end zone for the last points of the game on a scamper from seven yards out.
Toledo took possession with 1:55 left but failed to convert for a first down. Junior Vince Penza’s punt went 18-yards, setting up the Eagles unsuccessful Hail Mary pass.
“This win is a big motivator because we have Cincinnati next week,” Reedy said. “They’re a great team from the Big East. We have to be prepared and bring it for next week.”
UT hosts Cincinnati under the lights of the Glass Bowl Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.