Rockets lose 41-15 in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
BOISE, Idaho – Sometimes when a team loses a key player and leader, they rally around him, play harder and win in spite of an untimely situation.
Unfortunately for the University of Toledo football team, they lost two of those players Saturday afternoon in a 41-15 defeat at the hands of No. 22 Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Dan Molls – the nation’s leading tackler and lifeblood of the Toledo defense – suffered a concussion in a collision during the opening kickoff. He was wobbly coming off the field and was forced to watch the remainder of the game from the sidelines.
Campbell, other coaches and several players came over to him and offered their support to their senior leader.
“I find it hard to believe this is the last game he ever plays,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell. “I know it’s not the ending that he would have wanted or any of our seniors would have wanted, [but] he will certainly be remembered in our program for a long time.”
Campbell has made it well known this season just how vital Molls was to the team’s success and even went as far as to say he’s one of the best players in Toledo history.
With the injury, senior Robert Bell was forced to play middle linebacker, something he hadn’t done all season. Junior Sylvestre then had to take Bell’s spot on the outside, a position where he hadn’t seen a snap in his college career.
To make matters worse, junior running back David Fluellen came up lame after a carry late in the first quarter. He re-aggravated his left ankle sprain which forced him to miss the final three quarters.
He sat out the regular season finale against Akron after initially suffer the injury the previous week at Northern Illinois.
The Rockets were forced to play the final three quarters without arguably their two best players.
However, Campbell and his team were determined to find a way, just like they’ve had to do so many other times this year when key players went down.
“There was never a moment when we felt sorry for ourselves and said, ‘hey, we can’t win this game,’” he said. “We just kept playing. I don’t think our kids flinched the entire game.”
Despite the loss of Molls, the UT defense played very well for the most part and limited the Aggies to just 13 points through three and half quarters.
Trailing 13-6 midway through the fourth quarter, Toledo appeared to be on their way to knotting it up as Terrance Owens – who took over for senior Austin Dantin in an attempt to give the offense a jolt – drove UT down to the USU 8.
Owens faced a 4th-and-1 from that spot and Campbell elected to run him on a keeper up the middle only to see him get stuffed inches shy of the sticks.
“That was kind of a bad read on my part,” Owens said. “I thought I could have bounced it outside, but I didn’t execute.”
Dantin threw an interception in the red zone on the previous possession after making a poor decision, throwing right into a pair of linebackers.
The Rockets got the ball back just two plays later when Utah State running back Kerwyn Williams was stripped by Bell. Senior safety Jermaine Robinson scooped up the loose ball and gave Toledo great field position and perhaps a chance to take the lead.
The drive stalled however, forcing UT to settle for a Jeremiah Detmer field goal to make it 13-9 with a little over seven minutes to play.
That was as close as Toledo would get as Williams made up for his earlier miscue – and then some.
The junior exploded for three touchdowns down the stretch, the first coming after he ran up the middle and past the entire UT defense for a 63-yard score with 6:57 left.
After a Toledo punt, Williams got it going again, this time breaking loose for a 56-yard sprint to the UT 5. He scored a play later to make it 27-6 with under five minutes remaining.
“I felt like we were a gap short in some of the running game,” Campbell said. “I think it was trying to get some of those new guys in position. [Utah State] got in some formations in the fourth quarter that we hadn’t seen in the first three.”
After another Dantin pick, Williams scored for the third time in the final quarter, this time from 25 yards out.
Williams finished with 235 rushing yards, 191 coming in the fourth quarter.
Dantin completed 12-of-21 for 132 yards and two interceptions. Owens connected on 6-of-17 for 30 yards.
USU’s Chuckie Keeton threw for 229 yards and ran for 92 more, including a 62-yard option-keeper for a first quarter score.
“We did some great things this year, but we’re going to attack the details and get better,” Campbell said. “We’re really close to where we want to be. I’m really proud of what we accomplished, but you want to win your last game and you want to win a MAC championship and those are things we didn’t accomplish.”
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