Phillip Ely

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Temple RB Jahad Thomas injured as Toledo leads Boca Raton Bowl at halftime

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Toledo leads Temple at halftime of the Boca Raton Bowl, 12-3, but the more concerning development for Matt Rhule’s Owls was running back Jahad Thomas leaving the game late in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury.

Rockets defensive tackle Treyvon Hester rolled up on Thomas’ leg on a running play, and the Owls’ leading rusher limped off the field with help. Rhule told the ESPN broadcast Thomas’ injury didn’t look good, but was unsure if he’d be able to return for the second half.

Thomas was struggling as Temple’s offense slogged to only 67 first-half yards, rushing eight times for five yards in a sloppy, off-and-on rainy evening in Florida.

Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely — who was denied a sixth year of eligibility, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy — sliced through Temple’s defense for 168 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Rockets also scored on a safety when linebacker Ja’Wuan Woodley blew up the mesh point of a read option and forced the ball out of the back of the end zone.

Toledo thrashes Bowling Green, but will it matter?

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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.

And then there were two: undefeated Toledo upended by NIU

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Entering Week 9 this past Saturday, there were four unbeaten Group of Five teams.  Three days later as Week 10 officially kicked off, that number has been sliced in half.

Trailing by one at halftime and without their starting quarterback and a starting wide receiver for the entire second half, Northern Illinois outscored previously-unbeaten Toledo 16-10 over the last two quarters to hand the homestanding Rockets a 32-27 win.  The Tuesday night affair was the Huskies’ sixth consecutive win over the Rockets.

A field goal early in the fourth quarter stretched UT’s lead to a game-high eight at 27-19.  However, two NIU touchdowns over the last 9:27, the last coming with 1:59 remained, nearly sealed the Rockets’ first blemish of the year.  UT had a chance to take the lead in the last two minutes, but a Phillip Ely interception on the ensuing drive officially sealed the loss.

Not only did UT suffer its first loss mere hours after appearing at No. 24 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, but they handed control of the MAC West over to Western Michigan.  The Broncos are the only unbeaten team in the division at 4-0, while the Rockets (4-1), Central Michigan (4-1) and NIU (4-1) have one loss each.  Those four teams will play each other a handful of times over the next four weeks, so that division will likely remain muddled until the end.

With Toledo’s loss to NIU tonight and Temple’s loss to Notre Dame Saturday, there are now two unbeaten G5 teams: Memphis and Houston.  The Tigers came in at No. 13 in the initial CFP rankings, the Cougars No. 25.  Despite the loss to the Irish, the Owls cracked those rankings at No. 22.  Toledo likely won’t be that lucky as they will undoubtedly tumble out of the Top 25 when they are released next Tuesday.

Whoops Pig Sooie! Toledo shocks No. 18 Hogs

Associated Press

In taking a shot at Ohio State’s schedule earlier this week, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema touted the fact that his Razorbacks still had eight ranked teams left on their schedule and that the top-to-bottom strength of the SEC is “unprecedented.”  Ummm, whoops?

In one of the most karmic turn of events in recent sports history, Toledo — not one of the eight ranked teams of which Bielema spoke, incidentally — went into Little Rock and stunned the Hogs, with the Rockets of the MAC heading back to Ohio with a 16-12 win.  It was the Rockets’ first-ever win over a current SEC team in four attempts.

Adding insult to won/loss injury, it was a former Alabama quarterback who played a major role in the upset.  Phillip Ely, who won the starting job during summer camp, passed for 237 yards, one touchdown and, most importantly, no interceptions.  In fact, in the hostile environment, UT as a team had no turnovers.

After Toledo took an intentional safety with a minute remaining, Arkansas had one last chance to pull out a win and avoid the upset.  Starting at their own 48-yard line, Brandon Allen, who passed for a career-high 411 yards, guided the Hogs down to the 16-yard line with :06 remaining.  An incompletion left Allen and the Hogs with one second and one last gasp remaining.  The 16-yard line would be as close as they’d get, however, as another Allen sailed out of the end zone incomplete as the Rockets’ sideline erupted in celebration.

The SEC had a record 10 teams in the most recent Associated Press Top 25; here’s to guessing the conference won’t — or shouldn’t anyway — have that number exiting Week 2.