Rockets defense throttled in MAC showdown
Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011 04:11
In a battle between Mid-American Conference Championship contenders the Rockets fell to Northern Illinois on Tuesday night in a 63-60 shootout at the Glass Bowl.
The two teams set a Glass Bowl and MAC regulation game record by combining for 123 points.
With the win Northern Illinois moves into a first place tie with the Rockets in the MAC West Division. Should both teams win their remaining three conference games the Huskies now own the tiebreaker over Toledo.
"Well, I guess the biggest thing is just disappointing for these seniors, for this football team to go out there and do what we did tonight," said UT head coach Tim Beckman. "We didn't play as a team and we didn't do things that we had been doing in weeks past. Credit's got to go to Northern Illinois."
Toledo (5-4, 4-1 MAC) allowed 60-plus points to the Huskies (6-3, 4-1) for the second consecutive season, having suffered a 65-30 loss to NIU last November in Dekalb.
"I mean, it's disappointing, there's no question—65 last year and 63 this year. I think they do a great job, and they've scored a lot of points on a lot of people. That's why they're rated as one of the top third down conversion football teams in the country, but to give up 63 points is way too many."
Junior quarterback Austin Dantin started the game for the Rockets and delivered one of the best performances of his collegiate career. Dantin threw for 322 yards and five touchdowns on 20 of 33 passing and ran for 65 yards and a rushing touchdown.
"The offensive line did a great job for me all night," Dantin said. "And obviously Eric Page did some unbelievable things."
Junior wideout Eric Page was on the receiving end of all five Dantin passing touchdowns, tying Marshall's Randy Moss for the MAC single-game record. Page finished with 9 catches for 150 yards.
Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish anchored the Huskies on the ground with 133 yards on 16 carries and through the air with 265 yards and three touchdowns on 17 of 26 passing with six touchdowns.
Tommylee Lewis started the scoring barrage, taking the opening kickoff from coast to coast to give Northern Illinois a 7-0 lead less than 20 seconds in to the game.
After the Rockets countered with a 67 yard drive capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Dantin, Lewis returned another kickoff 95 yards for the score to give NIU a 14-7 lead.
Lewis set a Huskies' school record for touchdowns on kickoff returns in a single game, also breaking the previous NIU record for kickoff return yardage in a contest.
"Well, the first one was a missed kick by [Jeremiah Detmer]," Beckman said. "They did a good job of scheming us. The ball wasn't kicked properly and we lost leverage.
"And on the second one, that wasn't quite as good again, but we lost leverage again on the right side of the kickoff coverage team and they ended up taking it back across the field."
Another 12-yard scoring pass from Dantin to Page tied the score again at 14 with 7:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Toledo's defense forced the Huskies into a three-and-out on the following drive but sophomore wideout Bernard Reedy gave NIU a fresh set of downs after being called for roughing the kicker.
Ten plays later Harnish hit senior wide receiver Nathan Palmer for a 6-yard scoring touchdown to give Northern Illinois a 21-14 lead late in the first quarter.
Harnish then connected with a wide open Palmer on a 71-yard touchdown pass that made the score 28-14 at the 9:59 mark of the second quarter.
Toledo made the score 28-21 when Dantin found Page for his third receiving touchdown of the half.
A 41-yard Jeremiah Detmer field goal cut the deficit to 28-24 at the half.
The two teams exchanged leads throughout the second half with Toledo taking its last lead on senior running back Adonis Thomas' three-yard touchdown run with 4:16 left in the game.
Chandler then led the Huskies on a 66-yard drive capped off by his sixth passing touchdown, marking the final score. The Rockets declined to use any of their three timeouts on Northern Illinois' last drive.
"It was kind of like a double-edged sword," Beckman said. "Do you let them call a timeout and give them an opportunity to call the play they want to call?"
Toledo hosts Western Michigan in another Tuesday night MAC West Division showdown on Nov. 8.
"The seniors and coaching staff need to regroup this football team," Beckman said. "We need to get back to the way we know the Rockets can play."