Falcons blow lead, fall to Rockets, 32-31


It is not every day that a single block can be the difference between winning and losing in college football, but it was Tuesday night at Doyt Perry Stadium.

A block by University of Toledo 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior tight end Anthony Torres freed up junior running back Jacquez Stuart for the winning touchdown with 2:51 remaining as the Rockets defeated Bowling Green State University, 32-31, in front of 20,590 fans.

Stuart caught a sideline hitch pass from junior quarterback Dequan Finn. After Torres’ block, Stuart ran 59 yards virtually untouched down the right sideline for the winning score.

“I want to say hats off to Toledo, they made one more play than we did tonight,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said.

“I think our kids played their tails off and we coached well. The fact of the matter is that we just didn’t make one or two plays that we needed to.”

Loeffler said on the game-winning play, the Falcons made two mistakes allowing it to happen, although he did not want to identify who the culprits were. Stuart said it happened by design.

“In the film, we knew we were going to get that exact same look and once we got the same look it was easy. So, I just started smiling in my head and made sure I completed the ball first,” Stuart said.

Once Torres completed his block, Stuart said he knew he could score.

“Yes. I did think I was going to take it to the house because of my ability,” Stuart said. “But, I want to thank the quarterback for a great read, I want to thank the O-line for great protection, I want to thank the coach for calling a great play in a great moment.”

Toledo coach Jason Candle was so excited as the play was developing, that he ran the length of the sideline to celebrate with Stuart and his teammates.

“I saw the catch point and saw that the first down had occurred and then I saw Anthony’s block and I was really telling him to stay on his block because there was nobody behind him, and I kind of felt that when I saw the defensive look when the pressure was coming,” Candle said.

BGSU, which had won four straight league games coming in and five of six overall, fell to 6-5 and 4-3.

Toledo had already clinched the Mid-American Conference West Division championship coming into the game, but with the win the Rockets improved to 10-1 overall and a perfect 7-0 in league play. However, Candle said winning the Battle for I-75 rivalry game between two schools 20 miles apart is important no matter what the records are.

“It was incredible, our student section rushed the field on an away game,” Candle said. “That tells you everything you need to know about this game, and I’m sure the emotion on the other side was the same in our stadium last year (BGSU win).

“It was a great game for Northwest Ohio. Great game for both communities. Great game for the Mid-American Conference,” Candle continued.

“And then it was on national TV tonight, so it was a really great display, and a really good game to watch. And it was one that we were happy to come away with a win.”

The game was, how do we say it, a tale of two halves, with the Falcons dominating in the first half and the Rockets taking control in the second half.

Ultimately, Toledo had to come back from an 18-point halftime deficit to win it.

Toledo took the game’s opening possession and drove 75 yards on six plays, scoring when Finn ran 23 yards untouched up the middle on a quarterback draw just 1:54 after the opening kickoff.

However, the Falcons outscored the Rockets, 28-3, the remainder of the half by scoring four touchdowns and holding Toledo to a field goal.

Less than a minute after Finn’s scoring run, BGSU senior quarterback Connor Bazelak found sophomore tight end Harold Fannin Jr. cutting across the middle. Fannin broke a tackle and ran the remainder of the way untouched for a 56-yard TD.

The Falcons followed with a five-play, 53-yard drive, culminating when senior quarterback Camden Orth faked a run from the two-yard line and threw a jump pass to Fannin.

Fannin had to go high to bring in the football, but his second touchdown gave the Falcons a 14-7 lead with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.

After Toledo junior kicker Luke Pawlak booted a 39-yard field goal, the BGSU offense went back to work, putting together a time-consuming 15-play, 75-yard drive with Orth powering his way into the end zone from five yards out.

To end the half, BGSU pieced together a 12-play, 62-yard drive, culminating with a one-yard TD run by junior tailback Ta’ron Keith. The Falcons’ two second quarter scoring drives combined took 12 minutes and 37 seconds off the clock, keeping Toledo’s offense off the field.

However, the Falcons failed to find the end zone in the second half, scoring only on a 40-yard field goal by sophomore place kicker Alan Anaya with 7:30 remaining in the game, which gave the Falcons a 31-25 lead.

Anaya’s field goal was the result of an interception of a Finn pass by BGSU junior defensive back Jordan Oladokun at the Toledo 39-yard line, but was one of few plays to go the Falcons’ way in the second half.

“We just missed a few plays that would’ve given us the chance to score in the second half,” Loeffler said.

“We didn’t make enough plays in the second half plain and simple. We had a turnover that gave us some good momentum in my opinion.”

In the third quarter, Finn threw a 22-yard TD pass to junior running back Peny Boone and Boone scored on a one-yard TD run.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons had a chance to go up by two-possessions plus, piecing together three consecutive first downs and inching closer to the red zone.

On a third down-and-seven, Orth got the first down, but was hit by junior cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, forcing Orth to lose the football, which rolled five yards forward and was recovered by Toledo junior safety Maxen Hook at the Rockets’ 20-yard line.

The Falcons’ defense came up big with a three-and-out, but a 69-yard punt by Toledo freshman Emilio Duran pinned BGSU at their own six-yard line. It helped the Rockets continue building momentum.

“Momentum is so big in college athletics,” Candle said. “We had to find a way to seize it. We got a three-and-out. Got a touchdown.

“We didn’t make any errors except that interception really throughout the course of the second half. We were able to flip the field on a big punt, and we were just able to hang in there, and then the second touchdown happened, and we were able to get the two-point conversion.

“Then we held them to a field goal. We just kept throwing punches and wait for something to crack, and our kids stood in there and kept swinging.”

Bazelak, who got so banged up he did not play on the Falcons’ final possessions, completed 23-of-35 passes for 286 yards while Orth completed 3-of-11 passes for 23 yards.

Keith was the Falcons’ leading rusher with 64 yards on 15 carries plus he caught seven passes for 51 yards. Fannin had five catches for 89 yards, including 67 yards after the catch.

BGSU senior receiver Odieu “O.J.” Hiliare had six catches for 74 yards, senior Austin Osborne had four catches for 48 yards and senior Abdul-Fatal Ibrahim had two catches for 32 yards.

Finn completed 20-of-30 passes for 279 yards plus he ran for 28 yards on eight carries, although the Falcons had success putting pressure on him the first half, sacking Finn three times.

“We came into the game knowing he was effective on his feet,” BGSU outside linebacker Cashius Howell said.

“So, we wanted to come in with a chip on our shoulders and trying to get after him. We wanted to make sure to contain them as much as possible.”

For the Rockets, Boone ran for 131 yards on 15 carries, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt, plus he caught three passes for 24 yards. Torres was not only effective as a blocker, but he caught three passes for 71 yards.

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