Toledo Rockets Beat Buffalo Bulls 25 – 20Written by Nate Pentecost | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Amherst, N.Y. — The tried-and-true cautionary tale warns teams of the letdown following a big win. Off the heels of defeating No. 21 Cincinnati, the Rockets almost learned that lesson the hard way before pulling out a 25-20 win at Buffalo Saturday.
The first half was undoubtedly Toledo’s worst of the season. Amid steady rain, the Rockets posted 115 yards on 32 plays, punting seven times and turning the ball over twice.
Buffalo found the scoreboard first when UT junior quarterback Terrance Owens’ pass bounced off Alonzo Russell’s arms and into the hands of cornerback Cortney Lester, who returned the ball 23 yards for the score. Patrick Clarke’s extra point gave the Bulls a 7-0 advantage with 7:48 left in the first quarter.
Toledo tied the game when senior defensive Hank Keighley sped past the offensive line to strip quarterback Alex Zordich. Keighley’s sack gave way to a Dan Molls return for a touchdown.
Molls finished with a game-high 14 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, to pad his national lead.
A career-long 36-yard run by Zordich put Buffalo deep in Rockets territory the next series but the UT defense held strong and Patrick Clarke failed on a 29-yard field goal attempt.
The Bulls picked up their first offensive touchdown at home since Sept. 19 when Zordich connected with freshman running back Devin Campbell on a 42-yard passing touchdown with just over seven minutes until the half.
In total, Zordich completed 5-of-16 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. After taking a hard hit in the fourth quarter, Zordich gave way to his backup, redshirt freshman Joe Licata.
In the closing minute of the first half, it appeared Owens found Russell by the sideline at the Buffalo 25, however, officials ruled him out of bounds. The play was reviewed but not overturned.
On the next down Owens hit safety Adam Redden right in the chest for the sophomore’s first career interception, effectively ending the half with the Rockets trailing 14-7.
Owens entered the locker room having completed 5-of-15 passes for 51 yards with two interceptions. He has been picked off four times in the last three games.
Owens and the Rockets however, came out firing on the opening series of the second half. He completed 3-of-3 passes for 50 yards to allow for junior tailback David Fluellen’s 8-yard touchdown scamper. Detmer’s extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the score 14-13 less than two minutes into the half.
Fluellen dashed for 84 yards on four plays the following drive to give Toledo its first lead of the game, at 19-14 with 8:06 left in the third quarter. Detmer’s point after attempt was blocked once again.
A native of Lockport, N.Y., Fluellen put on a clinic in front of his home-state crowd, rushing for a career-high 228 yards on 35 carries for two touchdowns. Fluellen is averaging almost 180 yards rushing the past five games.
After forcing the Bulls to punt, UT went back to work. Owens found a wide open Russell deep down the sideline for a 40-yard gain. Fluellen finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge. Detmer missed the extra point to leave the score 25-14.
Licata completed 3-of-4 for passes for 54 on the ensuing drive, including an 8-yard touchdown lob to junior wideout Alex Neutz. The score remained 25-20 after the Bulls failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Neutz hauled in six passes for a game-high 118 yards to go with his touchdown.
The Rockets began their next series near midfield but could not capitalize as a botched snap negated a 42-yard field goal attempt
After the team’s traded punts twice, Buffalo began a drive from their own 9-yard line with 1:48 remaining.
Licata moved the Bulls up on a 16-yard pass to wide receiver Fred Lee but a play later junior defensive end Jayrone Elliott tracked Licata down in the backfield for his MAC-leading 5.5 sack. Defensive lineman Colby Kratch pounced on the ball to give the Rockets possession with 1:30 to go.
Owens, who closed out the night with 171 yards on 12-of-25 passing, took a knee to seal the win.
Photo Credit: Vincent D. Scebbi