The Toledo Rockets fired up the offense and defense to put away the Bowling Green Falcons, 44-28, at Doyt Perry Stadium Tuesday night to retain the Battle of I-75 Trophy for the sixth straight season.It was all UT in the first quarter as the Rockets put 17 points on the scoreboard and never looked back in a game that was carried by ESPN2.
Senior cornerback Cheatham Norrils picked off BGSU quarterback Matt Johnson’s tipped pass to set up Toledo’s first score.
UT needed just four plays to go 27 yards to get into the end zone. Junior running back Kareem Hunt carried the ball five yards for his eighth touchdown of the season. Freshman placekicker James Vest added the extra point to make it 7-0.
After Toledo’s defense forced the Falcons to punt after three plays, the Rockets needed just three plays to go 67 yards to score again.Hunt was off to the races with a 42-yard run that put UT deep into BG territory. Sophomore running back Terry Swanson then scampered 20 yards for a touchdown. Vest’s extra point was good to make it 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.
A 20-yard field goal by Vest made it 17-0 with 3:10 left in the opening stanza.
After BG quarterback Johnson’s 46-yard touchdown run was called back by a holding penalty, UT senior linebacker Chase Murdock forced a Falcon fumble, which was recovered by senior defensive end Trent Voss.
Senior quarterback Phillip Ely then threw a 47-yard strike to senior wide receiver Alonzo Russell to put the Rockets on the Falcons’ five-yard line. While that catch extended Russell’s streak to 48 games in a row with a reception, the Falcons were able to stop UT, which settled for a 22-yard field goal by Vest to push the lead to 20-0 at 14:19 mark in the second quarter.
Less than two minutes later, the Falcons found the end zone after a nine-play, 65-yard drive to make it 20-7.
The Rockets answered with a field goal after Ely’s 16-yard pass to junior tight end Mike Roberts and 26-yard completion to junior wide receiver Corey Jones. Vest came on to boot the ball 35 yards through the uprights to make it 23-7 midway through the second quarter.
Junior defensive end John Stepec then sacked BGSU’s quarterback and the Falcons punted; Corey Jones returned the ball 23 yards and a late hit gave UT another 15 yards. A three-play, 39-yard drive was capped by Hunt’s 11-yard TD run, his second score of the night. Vest’s extra point put the Rockets up 30-7.The Falcons scored on a five-yard pass from Johnson thanks to a one-handed grab by Gehrig Dieter to cut the lead to 30-14 just before halftime.
The Rockets got the ball to start the second half, and BG intercepted a pass by Ely to give the Falcons possession on the UT 33-yard line. BGSU cashed in the turnover to draw closer, 30-21, at the 12:25 in the third quarter.
As momentum seemed to be tipping toward the home team, UT senior defensive end Allen Covington forced a fumble by Johnson, and the ball was scooped up by junior defensive back DeJuan Rogers, who ran to the BGSU eight-yard line.
Ely then scored on an eight-yard run to increase the Rockets’ lead, 37-21.But the Falcons flew right back with an 11-yard pass from Johnson to Dieter to keep BGSU close, 37-28, with 8:03 to go in third quarter.
Ely and company then went to work again; the quarterback completed a 12-yard pass to Russell, a 15-yard pass to Corey Jones, and a 15-yard strike back to Russell to push the score to 44-28 with 8:38 left in the game.
BG turned the ball over for the fifth time with about a minute left in the game. Norrils pulled down his second interception of the night to put the game away for the Rockets.
UT improves to 9-1 and still has a shot at winning the West Division of the Mid-American Conference if Northern Illinois loses and the Rockets beat Western Michigan Friday, Nov. 27.
BGSU, now 8-3, already clinched the MAC East Division and will play in the conference championship game next month in Detroit.
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