Toledo played a fantastic game on Tuesday night, winning 44-28 at rival Bowling Green.
The Rockets intercepted Bowling Green standout quarterback Matt Johnson on the first play from scrimmage. They scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and found points on all six of their first half touches. They led 17-0 after one quarter, 30-7 at one point in the second quarter and never allowed the Falcons to pull within one score.
Toledo displayed fantastic balance, as quarterback Phillip Ely completed 16-of-24 passes for 208 yards with a touchdown and an interception while Kareem Hunt rushed 29 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Its defense held Johnson, who entered the night as the nation’s second-leading passer, more than 100 yards below his season average an intercepted him twice, half the number of picks Johnson had thrown all season entering the game.
Toledo out-rushed Bowling Green 198-94 while holding the Falcons to 17 points below their season scoring average and more than 200 yards below its yearly yardage average.
All this while playing on the road against a hated rival.
Again, Toledo played a fantastic game on Tuesday night. Perhaps the best any MAC team has posted all season.
But while the Rockets (9-1, 6-1 MAC) went a long way to proving themselves the MAC’s best team, they may not get a chance to win the hardware proving themselves the conference’s top dog.
By virtue of a 32-27 loss to Northern Illinois last Wednesday, the Rockets ceded control of the MAC West to the Huskies – and they aren’t likely to give it back. NIU faces Western Michigan (Wednesday) and Ohio (next Tuesday) to close the season, both at home. Western Michigan is improved, but the Huskies own a six-game winning streak in the series. Ohio is 7-4 on the season, but has been outscored by an average of 51-18 in losses to the three best MAC opponents its faced to date this fall.
And, by the way, Northern Illinois has dropped just one MAC home game in the past seven seasons.
So it is Northern Illinois, not Toledo, that has the inside track to face MAC East champion Bowling Green (8-3, 6-1 MAC) in Detroit for the conference title.
But while Toledo may not have the opportunity to claim a conference championship, they do have the satisfaction of owning an emphatic sixth straight victory in a hated rivalry that dates back to 1919.
Not a bad consolation prize.