T.O., defense leads Toledo over arch rival Falcons
If Terrance Owens didn’t do enough to prove he should be the full-time starter last week, his performance against Bowling Green Saturday night should put any remaining doubt to rest.
The junior quarterback completed 20-of-28 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown to lead the Rockets to a 27-15 victory over the archrival Falcons. Owens went over the 300-yard mark for the second time in as many weeks.
In his last two games, Owens is 45-of-69 (65 percent) for 603 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
“It all comes down to practice,” Owens said. “It’s just preparing to be the starting quarterback. Just knowing that the team has my back and going out there and executing.”
Owens and senior Austin Dantin have been listed as co-starters on the depth chart since the beginning of last season, but it certainly appears that the two-quarterback system has officially been scrapped – for now.
“Right now, we’ve got great faith in what we’re doing with Terrance. T.O. is playing really good football,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell. “I thought he came out fast and strong.”
Toledo (2-1, 1-0 MAC) came out of the tunnel to a packed house and played their best defense of the year.
Bowling Green (1-2, 0-1) was forced into three straight three-and-outs to begin the game. After their second, the UT offense got to work.
Facing a 3rd and 13 from their own 34, Owens launched a pass deep down the sidelines to receiver Alonzo Russell. The redshirt freshman beat his defender and reeled it in on the run for a 66-yard touchdown to give UT a 7-0 lead on the team’s longest pass of the season.
Russell went off for 152 yards on six catches to give him 275 yards on the year.
The youngster out of Washington D.C. has been one of the biggest surprises of the year for Toledo.
“He’s got great potential,” Campbell said. “He’s a young man who has worked extremely hard, he’s been disciplined. He’s somebody that has gotten better every day.”
On the ensuing drive, sophomore cornerback Cheatham Norrills undercut the route of freshman receiver Chris Gallon to record his first career interception, the seventh takeaway the defense produced in less than 10 quarters.
“Cheatham Norrills is a young man that we’re so excited about,” Campbell said. “I think he really took this spring and this offseason [to figure out] how good he wants to be. He’s demanded to get better.”
The Rockets capitalized five plays and 41 yards later when junior running back David Fluellen scored from a yard out for a commanding 17-0 lead with 8:43 to play before the half.
Fluellen ran for 81 yards and two scores and added 53 more yards receiving.
Bowling Green’s offense was stagnant for nearly the entire first half. They failed to move the chains until the Falcons’ fourth drive of the game on a 22-yard scamper by sophomore Anthon Samuel.
They got into Rocket territory for the first time with 6:45 to go in the first half.
The Falcons finally found some rhythm on towards the end of the first half, moving the ball with ease down to the Toledo 18, but stalling on a failed third down conversion.
The 37-yard field goal attempt by freshman Tyler Tate sailed wide left as the Falcons remained scoreless before converting on a 32-yarder as time expired in the first half.
UT took a 17-3 lead into the locker room.
“Honestly, I thought our defense all year long has played really, really good football,” Campbell said. “They’ve given us a chance to be in every game.”
The second half featured more of the same from the Rockets as the offense marched down the field and saw Fluellen cap off a four play, 75-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown run.
Fluellen weaved his way through several defenders before getting to the outside and running in for the score, giving UT a 24-3 lead.
Center Zac Kerin said he and Fluellen discussed a flaw in the BGSU defensive line that allowed the big run to happen.
The Falcons made things a bit more interesting in the fourth when senior running back John Pettigrew scored from two-yards out, making it a 24-15 game with 13:29 to play.
However, the Rocket defense held the Falcons scoreless for the remainder of the game and brought home the Battle of I-75 trophy.
“I could not be prouder of the leadership of our football team,” Campbell said. “We’ve got 19 great seniors that have led our program starting nine months ago. That senior leadership tonight was critical in a hard-fought, tough football game.”
Entering Saturday’s game, Toledo had surrendered over 1,100 yards in their first two games. They held BG to 351 yards of total offense, 174 yards less than their season average of 525.
“The biggest thing that we emphasized all week in practice was tackling,” said senior linebacker Dan Molls. “Everyone, for the most part, tackled really well and that was a huge key to our success tonight.”
Molls is one of many who will go out topping their archenemies three straight times to finish their careers at Toledo.
“There’s nothing like it, it’s incredible.” Molls said. “As a senior, we owe it to the underclassmen, to our coaches, fans and all the supporters of our team.”
UT returns to the Glass Bowl next weekend, Saturday, Sept. 22, to battle Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m.
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