Unlikely heroes lead Rockets in season finale winWritten by Nate Pentecost | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Unofficially stripped of his role as co-No. 1 quarterback after starting and splitting time with Terrance Owens in a season-opening loss, senior Austin Dantin played only a handful of snaps leading up to the University of Toledo’s regular season finale.
Touting 3,700 career passing yards with 26 touchdowns over three years coming into the Rockets (9-3, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) senior night, Dantin was afforded the opportunity to add to those figures one more time at the Glass Bowl Tuesday.
As Owens stood on the sideline in street clothes to rest a lingering foot injury, Dantin shined in what might be the final appearance of his collegiate career, setting a career-high with 327 passing yards and tying a career-best five touchdown throws in a 35-23 win against Akron.
“There’s still more to be written, hopefully we have a bowl game ahead of us,” Dantin said. “This is an experience I’ll remember forever though, it was the last game in the Glass Bowl and to go out like this, it was a perfect ending.”
It was quite the conclusion for fellow senior and Floridian David Pasquale, as well.
Recruited as a quarterback out of high school, Pasquale moved to running back in the spring of 2008 but redshirted after injuring his shoulder before his freshman season. Now a scarcely used senior, he took advantage of playing time tonight in the absence of the nation’s third-leading rusher, David Fluellen, who injured his ankle Nov. 14 at Northern Illinois.
“As a senior I feel a responsibility to propel this team to a win and I think the other seniors would say the same,” Pasquale said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Another senior, linebacker Dan Molls, recorded a game-high 18 tackles to maintain his national lead. The player most likely to replace him next season, freshman Trent Voss, was second with 12, including 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
“We asked a lot out of [Voss] and he did about everything you could ask and more,” Molls said. “As seniors we lead the way but we still need the support of the underclassmen and we’re just grateful for the rest of the team helping get us this last victory.”
It was not all smooth sailing for the midnight blue and gold, however.
Akron (1-11, 0-8 Mid-American Conference) quarterback Dalton Williams came out firing, hitting L.T. Smith for a 47-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage before Robert Stein put the Zips on the scoreboard with a 31-yard field goal.
After the teams traded punts, Toledo’s offense took over near midfield with a chance to respond. On fourth-and-2 from the Akron 20 Campbell opted to try to move the sticks rather than settle for the field goal and tie, a decision which resulted in a turnover on downs when receiver Bernard Reedy was stopped just short of the first down.
The Zips went back to work under the direction of backup Kyle Pohl who completed 5-of-7 passes for 57 yards to set up Jawon Chisholm’s four-yard touchdown run. Stein’s point after gave Akron a 10-0 lead with 50 seconds left in the quarter.
The Rockets countered in less than two minutes, as Dantin went 3-for-3 for 62 yards on a drive capped off by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Russell. The redshirt freshman hauled in nine catches for a game-high 139 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
Toledo forced a punt on the ensuing drive, before Dantin found Pasquale on a short pass over the middle which the converted back took 55 yards to the house for a 14-10 advantage at the 7:38 mark of the second quarter.
“For him to have the night that he had, I couldn’t be happier,” Dantin said. “He’s worked so hard and to go out tonight and show everyone what he’s about and what he’s able to contribute, it’s just awesome.”
Both squads added another touchdown for the halftime score of 21-17 Rockets and a scoreless third left the game undecided far longer than most anticipated. Dantin tallied two more touchdown passes in the fourth, though, to seal the victory in the season finale.
Though its schools can be invited to other FBS bowl games, the MAC holds tie-ins to four, including the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, GoDaddy.com Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the Military Bowl.
Seven schools from the conference are projected to be eligible for the upcoming bowl season. Bowl invitations are due Dec. 2.