Fluellen rushes for over 200 yards in his homecoming
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 28, 2012 17:10
AMHERST, N.Y. -- The homecoming party for David Fluellen was a bit soggy in waterlogged Buffalo Saturday, but it wasn’t any less sweet.
Not after torching the Bulls for 234 rushing yards, paving the way to a 25-20 Toledo victory.
“It’s not just today,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell. “David’s been doing it really the entire season. I really feel he’s one of the better running backs in the country. He’s worked extremely hard to get where’s he’s at and he’s a young man I’m extremely proud of.”
Fluellen has filled the void left behind by Adonis Thomas about as well as possible, rushing for 1,187 yards and 11 touchdowns in nine games.
He has gone over the century mark in five straight games, averaging 178.8 yards per game in that span.
The junior from nearby Lockport, N.Y. – about 30 miles from Buffalo – said the constant rain and sloppy conditions were nothing he hadn’t seen before. In fact, it helped him.
“The weather played a role in a lot of my success,” he said. “It was like an old high school game with the weather and just straight run.”
Fluellen said he had upwards of 65 friends and relatives scattered throughout the sparse crowd at UB Stadium.
“It felt good coming back,” the now 1,000-yard rusher said. “[I had] a lot of family and friends there to support me and just feeling like I was home. I loved every minute of it.”
In a first half in where Toledo ran their streak of quarters without an offensive touchdown to seven, UT was in desperate need of a spark.
Fluellen provided that and then some, rushing for 179 yards in the second half.
The Toledo offense got off to a very different start, however, producing seven punts and two turnovers in the first half.
Terrance Owens’ pass on his second drive deflected off the hands of freshman receiver Alonzo Russell and ended up in the mitts of sophomore corner Cortney Lester, who sprinted 23 yards down the sidelines to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead.
The Rocket defense responded with a touchdown of their own when senior defensive end Hank Keighley stripped UB’s Devin Campbell at his own 13 and senior Dan Molls scooped up the loose ball. He darted towards the end zone and put a nice move on a Buffalo defender at the five to put the Rockets on the board with 2:17 to play in the quarter.
Molls added 14 tackles and a sack to his banner day.
The Bulls took a 14-7 halftime lead thanks to a 42-yard toss from quarterback Alex Zordich to a wide open Campbell who leaked out of the backfield.
Owens and the Rockets continued to sputter as he threw his second pick of the game – his fifth in his last four games – just as the Rockets started to move the ball and perhaps move into position for a field goal attempt to close the half.
Instead Owens made a bad decision, firing into tight coverage near the left sideline and finding the hands of UB’s Adam Redden at the Buffalo 48 with 15 seconds left in the half.
Owens connected with junior receiver Bernard Reedy for 35 yards on UT’s first play of the day, but finished the first half completing just 5-of-15 for 55 yards and two interceptions. UT was outgained 192-115.
“We can’t turn the football over,” Campbell said. “The last one he threw, he was trying to make a play and he forced it. We have great faith in Terrance and we have to do a great job from an offensive standpoint to not put our defense in poor positions.”
UT came out of the locker room and resembled a vastly different offensive team. Owens went 3-for-3 on the drive – two to Reedy for 39 yards – and pulled within a point before as a result of a blocked extra point.
After forcing a Buffalo three-and-out, Fluellen had his best stretch of the game.
He ripped off runs of 17, 49, 19 and 1 yards on a four-play, 86 yard drive to give UT their first lead of the game with 8:11 to play in the third.
“One of the things that sometimes maybe people don’t realize is just how explosive he is,” Campbell said. He’s got great explosion, he’s got great vision and I’m not afraid to say he’s one of the best backs in the country.”
However, the extra point was again blocked as Jeremiah Detmer slipped on the slick grass.
The Bulls had one last chance to force a major upset after forcing UT to punt with 2:07 remaining and trailing 25-20.
The Toledo defense put a quick stop to that as junior defensive end Jayrone Elliot got into the backfield and recorded a strip-sack which was recovered by senior Colby Kratch to put the game on ice.
That sack gave Elliot the MAC lead with 5.5.
“You see a young man [in Jayrone] that’s really maturing,” Campbell said. “Our great senior leaders on the defensive side of the ball really pushed him through the summer and he bought in lock, stock and barrel. You’re seeing a guy right now that’s developing and he has the ability to do so many great things.”
UT piled up 297 yards and outscored the Bulls 18-6 in the second half to win their eighth straight game.
Owens rebounded from a poor first half and finished 12-of-25 for 171 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions.
Russell led the Rockets with four catches for 80 yards.
Toledo will enjoy an extra few days off before returning to the Glass Bowl Tuesday, Nov. 6 against Ball State.