Rockets win fifth straight despite turnovers
Head coach Matt Campbell said it best after a 50-35 victory over Central Michigan – “it was a tale of two football games.”
Taking care of the football was one of many strong suits for Toledo (5-1, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) coming into play Saturday, but the usually sure-handed Rockets turned the ball over three times in the first half.
Junior receiver Bernard Reedy coughed it up twice in the first 20 minutes. Even junior Terrance Owens was bitten by the turnover bug in the first half, throwing his first interception since Nov. 8, 2011, halting his streak of 276 consecutive passes without a pick.
Those turnovers led to 14 CMU points and a halftime deficit.
“You can’t turn the football over and be successful,” Campbell said. “When you as an offense turn the ball over, you saw what happens. Short field, defenses playing behind the football, it’s not easy to play that way especially when you have a good quarterback [on the other side].”
Reedy’s roller coaster first half began on UT’s second drive when he burned his man and got behind the entire defense, but saw a would-be 89-yard touchdown fall of his fingertips.
Three plays later, he fumbled at his own 11 yard line.
“My head just wasn’t in the game,” Reedy, who tied a career-high with 10 catches, said. “I was too busy worrying about the pink wrist tape, pink mouthpiece and my visor.”
The Rockets sported some pink gear and a pink Rocket decal on one side of their helmets in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In an effort to calm the nerves and get his mind right, Reedy said he changed his gear after his second fumble, which took place early in the second quarter.
Reedy appeared to bobble the ball before dropping it at the UT 27. The play – initially ruled an incompletion – was reviewed and the officials determined he had possession long enough to constitute a catch and a fumble, giving CMU the ball.
“Sometimes, that’s football,” Campbell said. “Things happen, mistakes happen. We’re dealing with 18-to-22-year-old young men. Bernard’s a guy that comes to practice every single day and plays really hard. I really believe in sticking with guys who have great confidence in themselves.”
UT’s trio of first half turnovers put them in a 21-10 hole with just 2:13 to play until halftime.
Owens led the offense on one of their best and most important drives of the game, leading them on a nine play, 90-yard drive in just two minutes. He completed all six of his passes for 69 yards and pulled UT within four with 13 seconds left in the opening half.
“I thought it was just huge for the confidence of our offense,” Campbell said. “It was really important for us to go down there [and score]. The biggest thing was a third down play and James Green made it for about a 25-yard gain to get us into the red zone.”
The turnover tide shifted in the second half with two of Toledo’s senior defensive leaders making huge plays down the stretch and Reedy making up for his earlier miscues.
With about nine minutes remaining and trailing 21-17 in the third, Reedy fielded a punt at his own 34. After making a few moves and making his way to midfield, Reedy made a huge cut to the left at the CMU 40 and picked up several huge blocks on his way to the end zone for a 66-yard return for a touchdown.
That score gave the Rockets their first lead since the first quarter and they didn’t look back.
Senior safeties Mark Singer and Jermaine Robinson each returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter in key moments.
With 9:39 to go, the Chippewas (2-3, 0-2 MAC) trailed 34-28 and had possession.
Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff attempted to hit receiver Titus Davis on an out route when Singer jumped it and made a house call from 39 yards out.
“[Davis] ran an out, it was cover three and I was dropping down like a linebacker,” Singer said. “I just read the quarterback. He threw it right to me, so that always helps.”
It was the sixth interception of his career and his second in as many weeks.
The Chippewas received one last shot to possibly tie the game receiving the ball with just under a minute to go. Robinson put any hopes of a comeback to rest with a pick-six of his own, going 31 yards the other way for the dagger.
Despite the interception, Owens led the offensive attack going 22-of-33 for 233 yards. He also added 81 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns.
Senior running back David Fluellen ran for 100 yards, the second straight week he broke over 100 yards and the third time this season.
Senior linebacker Dan Molls – second in the country in total tackles – added nine more to his season total including 1.5 tackles for loss.
With the victory, the Rockets won their fifth straight and can become bowl eligible next week at Eastern Michigan. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
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