This Halloween, turnovers were handed out like Snickers and Reese’s Cups.
Despite Toledo’s 45-13 victory that appeared on the scoreboard, both teams committed a frightening amount of turnovers, combining for 10 in Wednesday night’s lone college football game.
Toledo quarterback Eli Peters tossed a career-high four interceptions, but he played about as great of a game as any quarterback with four picks has ever played. The backup, playing in relief of Mitchell Guadagni, threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Rockets to their second-straight victory — one game away from bowl eligibility for the ninth-consecutive season.
The Rockets’ other turnover was an interception thrown by wide receiver Desmond Phillips on a trick play. While Toledo preferred to hand out their treats through the air, Ball State handed the Rockets a fair share of turnovers on the ground.
Ball State backup Drew Plitt, playing for the injured Riley Neal, threw two interceptions. But the Cardinals’ most monumental issue involved fumbling. Ball State fumbled three times and the two most crucial turnovers of the game allowed the Rockets to gain a significant edge early.
After driving down past the Toledo 30 on their opening drive on the road, the Cardinals fumbled while trying to convert a 3rd-and-1 on the ground. That turnover was exchanged for a long Toledo drive that resulted in a 19-yard touchdown run by running back Bryant Koback.
A 57-yard catch by junior wideout Diontae Johnson set the Rockets up for a two-score lead, as Art Thompkins punched it in from the 1-yard line several plays later. Down two scores, a turnover destroyed Ball State offensive momentum once again.
On third down deep in his team’s own territory, Plitt was victim of the improved Toledo pass rush. Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor flung the ball out of Plitt’s hand and the ball rolled into the end zone. Just before it maneuvered out of bounds, defensive end Tuzar Skipper — the team’s leader in sacks — dove on the pigskin to secure a 21-0 lead.
When Toledo looked to lead 28-0, the first of many Peters interceptions impeded their progress. This swing of events brought Ball State back into the game for a few minutes. The Cardinals capitalized on the gift, appearing on the scoreboard after Plitt found an open Riley Miller cutting to the right side of the end zone on a corner route.
The teams traded turnovers on back-to-back possessions to extend the lead back to 21 points. Koback scored his second touchdown of the evening in front of the home fans to enter halftime with a safe, three-score advantage.
The madness only continued in the final two frames. There were four second half turnovers to follow up the first half’s sloppy play. Toledo scored the first 10 points of the half, and after that, the Cardinals never came closer than 25 points. For Vegas residents still watching the game, Toledo hopped on a Ball State fumble late and iced the cover with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Peters with 1:23 left.
The loss knocks Ball State out of bowl season for the fifth-straight season. Meanwhile, Led by Diontae Johnson’s 155 all-purpose yards, Toledo’s offense continues to roll after a statement win over Western Michigan. The Rockets’ schedule remains manageable during their push to the forefront of the MAC West.
A trip to DeKalb against the spotless Huskies (in MAC play) is next on Jason Candle’s schedule, before the team challenges easier opponents in Kent State and Central Michigan.
Ball State, eliminated from bowl contention, closes its season out with Western Michigan at home and Miami (OH) on the road.