Toledo holds on to win shootout at Eastern
Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012
Updated: Saturday, October 13, 2012 19:10
YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Matt Campbell insisted earlier this week that his team was not going to overlook winless Eastern Michigan before their huge home game next week against nationally ranked Cincinnati.
Whatever the reason, the Rockets didn’t look like the team that scored votes in the Top 25 Coaches Poll in each of the last two weeks, though they held on for 52-47 victory.
“No game is perfect,” Campbell said. “You want it to be as much as you can and you work as hard as you can to put your kids in position to be perfect, but it’s not going to happen. You’re going to face adversity.”
Despite playing the majority of the game in steady rain, the two teams combined for 1,279 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns in a back-and-forth affair.
Toledo took a 21-10 lead into the locker room behind junior running back David Fluellen, who ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the first 30 minutes. He ended the day with 193 yards on 24 carries and two scores, one from 53 yards out.
He is averaging over 163 yards on the ground in his last three games, eclipsing the century mark each time.
Campbell was quick to praise the downfield blocking his backs are getting this season.
“You’re not going to play unless you physically go block people,” Campbell said. “That’s a receiver, that’s a running back and that’s the offensive line. That’s what makes coach Candle (UT offensive coordinator and offensive line coach) so special, he holds those guys accountable.”
A stagnant Eagle offense came out in the second half and looked like a completely different team, turning a rather pedestrian game into a track meet.
Sophomore running back Bronson Hill ran over, through and around UT defenders on his way to three long touchdown runs in the third.
With 10:18 remaining in the third, Hill took the handoff and ran right up the middle for a 47-yard score, getting a huge block at the UT 30 that allowed him to coast in. That touchdown brought EMU within four points.
On the ensuing kick, junior receiver Bernard Reedy went 89 yards to the house for his second return touchdown in as many weeks. The MAC Special Teams Player of the Week exploded up the middle and got past the kicker near midfield.
The speed demon went to the end zone untouched and the madness was just beginning.
“They were squeezing so hard towards the left,” Reedy said. “If they squeeze too hard, I’m just going to cut it back. Nobody was there but the kicker.”
After a 58-yard touchdown run from Hill on the next drive, Reedy went right back to work.
On the first play from scrimmage, junior Terrance Owens found a wide open Reedy over the middle of the field, who took off for a 65-yard score to give the Rockets a 35-24 lead.
The Florida native had a game he’s not likely to forget, hauling in a career-high 11 catches for a school record 237 yards. His 407 all-purpose yards also set a school record and is the third-most yards in MAC history.
The school record for all-purpose yards was previously held by running back Casey McBeth who tallied 370 in 1994.
“Bernard is just one of those guys that’s a really good football player,” Campbell said. “He’s got the ability to make something happen anytime he touches the football. I think Bernard would say this, but it’s probably the guys around him that put him in a great position to be successful.”
The winless Eagles (0-6, 0-3) showed plenty of grit all afternoon and came right back with another huge play from Hill, this time sprinting 70 yards for a touchdown.
On UT’s next drive the man opposite Reedy – redshirt freshman Alonzo Russell – got into the action with his first catch of the game, good for 60 yards and touchdown to put the Rockets in front 42-30 with 6:55 to play in the third.
After yet another EMU touchdown, Reedy caught his second of the day from 59 yards out.
Owens’ third passing touchdown of the game capped off a third quarter that looked like it came straight from a video game.
The two teams combined for 769 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns that left both sidelines searching for answers in a frenzy.
“Bad things happen,” Campbell said. “[But] I never saw our sidelines get down. I never saw our kids or us lose our composure. I saw us fight through it and respond.”
Hill’s fourth rushing touchdown of the afternoon with 1:57 remaining in the fourth made it a 52-47 game. After recovering the onside kick, Toledo failed to move the chains and gave EMU one last chance for a miracle finish.
With one second on the clock, quarterback Tyler Benz launched a pass from his own 35, only to see UT safety Jermaine Robinson bat it down at the Toledo 25 to mercilessly end the game.
Hill finished with 284 yards on 28 carries, an average of 10.1 yards a carry. His four touchdown scampers came on runs of 47, 58, 70 and 7 yards.
Owens threw a pair of picks, but still put on a show, throwing for a career-high 401 yards on 21-of-32 passing. He also added a score on the ground in the first quarter.
Senior linebacker Dan Molls – the nation’s leading tackler – added 18 more to his total to give him 89 on the year. He intercepted a tipped ball on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Molls and the rest of the worn-down Rocket defense will turn their attention to nationally ranked Cincinnati as the Bearcats come to the Glass Bowl next Saturday.
“The only thing we can worry about is us,” Campbell said. “We’ve taken things one game at a time. We’ll be excited for a great challenge next week.”