Rockets unzip Akron 35-23
Seniors Austin Dantin, David Pasquale, fill in for Owens and Fluellen
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 11:11
Matt Campbell stressed repeatedly throughout the year that senior Austin Dantin would be needed at some point despite giving Terrance Owens the full-time starting quarterback role in week two.
That time finally arrived Tuesday night.
Owens was held out with a nagging ankle injury and Dantin got the nod to start the final regular season game of his career on senior night at the Glass Bowl.
Dantin shined bright throughout the night, completing 29-of-35 passes for a career-best 327 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Rockets to a 35-23 victory. They finish the season at 9-3 (6-2 Mid-American Conference).
“Coach Campbell told me that all year, but it’s tough to watch from the sidelines and not really contribute,” he said. “I really had to get in touch with my faith and really just believe that God has a plan for me and maybe me not playing is the best thing. To go out like this, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
After splitting time with Owens throughout 2010 and 2011 and throwing for almost 3,000 yards in that span, Dantin figured 2012 would be no different.
However, after starting the season opener in Arizona and completing just 10-of-15 passes, Owens took over full-time from that point forward.
That is, until his troublesome ankle finally reached a point where he couldn’t suit up Tuesday, giving Dantin one last opportunity to start for the Rockets.
“I said to Austin, ‘I think it’s your show,” Campbell said. ‘It’s senior night and you deserve the right to go play.’ I’m glad we made that decision.”
Campbell hinted that Dantin would have started the game regardless, but his number of reps could have been significantly less.
“To go out like this, it was a perfect ending,” he said. “There’s still hopefully more [of the story] to be written, but this was still a special night. [But] it wasn’t about me, it was about all the guys, the seniors. My family being up here, my brother coming to see my last game, that’s what means the world to me. It was something that I’ll remember forever.”
Campbell has spoken about the importance of the leadership of his seniors all year long, but sounded especially proud of his quarterback Tuesday night.
“I could not be prouder of Austin Dantin,” he said in an overtly passionate tone. “If I had a son, I’d want him to respond like [he has]. Austin Dantin will forever be remembered for how he carried himself through this. What you see is the product of a senior who put the team above him. He will forever be talked about. Unselfish, committed to excellence and a young man that stuck with the football team.”
Dantin wasn’t the only senior who took advantage of a rare starting opportunity.
Running back David Pasquale saw plenty of action in his final home game filling in for the injured David Fluellen.
Pasquale – who came to UT as a quarterback – entered the night with just 306 career rushing yards and only 46 in 2012.
He ran for 93 yards and caught seven passes for 110 more yards and a 55-yard touchdown.
Just like the other 17 seniors who walked out of the Glass Bowl for the final time, Pasquale knows how to handle adversity.
“Being the kind of guy I am, I don’t let not playing get to me,” he said. “I love this team, I love this university, I love just being around my guys. [The team is] bigger than me.”
Things didn’t start on as positive of a note as Toledo found themselves in an early 10-0 hole.
They finally got on the board when redshirt freshman receiver Alonzo Russell beat his man off the line down the left side to haul in a 30-yarder in the end zone on a perfect pass from Dantin, cutting the deficit to 10-7 early in the second quarter.
That was Russell’s first touchdown catch since Oct. 13 against Eastern Michigan and just his second in the last nine games.
UT took their first lead on their next possession when Pasquale snared a short pass over the middle and saw nothing but green in front of him, sprinting 55 yards for the score to put Toledo on top 14-10 with 7:38 remaining in the first half.
He caught a screen pass at UT’s own six yard line earlier on the drive and ran 21 yards to convert on 3rd-and-17 to keep the drive alive.
With just 1:37 left in the half, Dantin found a wide open Russell – this time for 39 yards – to give UT a 21-17 lead heading into the locker room.
Toledo began the fourth still clinging to their four-point advantage.
But Dantin kept rolling and threw two more touchdown passes, one to freshman tight end Alex Zmolik and another to junior receiver Justin Olack to secure Toledo’s ninth victory, the most they’ve had in the regular season since 2002.
“Four years ago, 3-8,” Campbell said. “Right now, we’re sitting at nine regular season wins. Each and every one of these seniors has had a distinct role in making our team better. I couldn’t be prouder to leave the Glass Bowl and this regular season with a huge win.”
They have truly changed the culture of our football program. I really couldn’t be prouder of what our team stands for. Our backs have been against the wall, but our kids have kept fighting. Hopefully the country knows it and sees it.”
The Rockets are a virtual lock to receive a bowl invitation with the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl all in play.
UT’s destination will be known no later than Sunday, Dec. 2.