Haden’s pick seals Toledo’s huge victory over No. 21 Cincinnati
With less than 20 seconds to play, sophomore cornerback Jordan Haden made what will surely be one of the most memorable plays in Toledo football history.
Undefeated Cincinnati — ranked No. 21 in the initial BCS standings — faced a six-point deficit but had the ball down to the Toledo 46 with a chance to steal a last-second victory.
With no timeouts remaining and the game hanging in the balance, junior quarterback Munchie Legeaux’s pass was picked off by Haden near the left sidelines.
One kneel-down later and the party officially started.
“Getting that pick, it meant the world to me,” Haden said. “It’s the third game my parents have been to since my senior year of high school and I’ve been here for two years now. Having my mom, my dad and my brother out there and tomorrow being my 21st birthday, it meant the world to me.”
That play sealed the deal on a 29-23 upset victory and sent a crowd of 24,124 into a frenzy which spilled out onto the field as players and students started the celebration.
Head coach Matt Campbell was even more animated and emotional than usual as he roamed the sidelines Saturday night, jumping up and down and throwing his fists into the air after seemingly every big play.
As he said earlier in the week, Campbell didn’t view this game as any more important than the rest. However, the meaning this victory has for him and his program cannot be stressed enough.
“Our football program is getting better,” he said. “We’ve been in these football games so many times. We’ve been in big games year in and year out. You can go back to Syracuse, Ohio State and Boise State. We’ve been in these games and so close to winning them but we haven’t been able to win and take the next step.”
Toledo (7-1, 4-0 MAC) is no stranger to knocking off big-time opponents.
Since 2000, UT has beaten the likes of Minnesota, Penn State, Colorado, Michigan, Purdue and No. 9 Pittsburgh.
After beating Cincinnati in the 2001 Motor City Bowl, the Bearcats were added to that list a second time.
“It was a great win here in the Glass Bowl,” Campbell said. “It was a great win for the student body and a great win for the city.”
The Rockets defense took the field first to a raucous crowd hungry for an upset victory. The Rocket faithful became even more amped when senior linebacker Dan Molls brought down running back Ralph Abernathy behind the line for a three-yard loss and forced a three-and-out on the next play.
Junior wide out Bernard Reedy hauled in a 22-yard catch on third down on UT’s first possession, leading to a 43-yard field goal by sophomore Jeremiah Detmer to put the Rockets in front 3-0.
Detmer was 5-for-5 on field goals in a game where the UT offense failed to score a touchdown.
On Cincinnati’s ensuing drive, Legeaux launched a pass deep down the field that found the hands of Toledo senior safety Jermaine Robinson who took it back 75 yards to the house.
Robinson — who picked off his fourth pass of the year — received a huge block near the UC 40 and cruised the rest of the way to put the Rockets on top 10-0 with 7:50 to play in the first.
“We practiced disguising coverages all week and we knew we could confuse [Legeaux] with some of our shift and calls,” Robinson said. “Once I had the ball in my hands, I just tried to make a play and fortunately it worked out.”
The Bearcats roared back with a six-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a two-yard keeper from Legeaux to make it 13-7.
Detmer added another field goal before the half and his counterpart, sophomore Tony Miliano, converted twice more as UT took a narrow 16-13 lead into the locker room.
UC took their first lead of the night with 2:08 to play in the third when Legeaux hooked up with senior receiver Damon Julian on a jump ball between a pair of Rocket defenders in the back right corner of the end zone.
The Bearcats went up 20-19, but the one-point advantage didn’t last long.
Reedy took the ensuing kickoff and put the Rockets back on top 13 seconds later on a 91-yard return for a touchdown.
He found a crease in the middle of the field and exploded through it for his third return touchdown in as many weeks, giving UT a 26-20 lead with just over a quarter to play.
“They kept kicking it deep left, trying to pin us in the corner,” Reedy said. “So I just told coach Lou that maybe if I take it back across field and read the blocks I could get it, and I did.”
Late in the fourth, UT was clinging to a 26-23 lead and had a first and goal at the UC 3 with under a minute left and a chance to close it out.
The stout Bearcats run defense stuffed Toledo three straight times — the last coming on a direct snap to junior running back David Fluellen — and forced UT to settle for his fourth field goal of the game, giving Cincinnati a slice of hope for a last second comeback.
Haden and the UT defense responded just like they did all night with a stand to capture a huge victory.
“Hopefully everyone now understands that our defense has made great progress since last year,” Campbell said. “I just couldn’t be prouder of the team effort tonight on defense, offense and special teams. 12
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