Football is a game of inches, and those inches proved crucial in the first midweek MACtion game of 2019.
With 5:27 left, Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum completed a goal line pass to tight end Keenan Orr in the end zone. Trailing by two in the aftermath, Kent State needed one more end zone appearance to tie things at 35 apiece. Crum faked a handoff, spun around, and attempted to power his way through several Toledo defenders. When he hit the ground, the ball was nearly touching the goal line, but Crum fell just short.
Toledo’s (6-3, 3-2 MAC) defensive stand permitted the Rockets to escape the Glass Bowl with a 35-33 victory over an improved Kent State (3-6, 2-3 MAC) team. The winning effort was spearheaded by running back Shakif Seymour, who ignited for 175 rushing yards and two touchdowns while stepping up for the injured Bryant Koback.
Koback entered Tuesday night as the 11th leading rusher in the FBS, but a second quarter leg injury kept the star rusher out of the remainder of the contest. Prior to the injury, he had recorded 67 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Seymour, who had excelled with two 90-yard games as a secondary back this season, seamlessly took over Koback’s production and Toledo’s offense didn’t miss a beat.
The Rockets started out on fire offensively, jumping to a 14-0 lead before Kent State could respond. Koback launched the scoring effort, but quarterback Eli Peters connected with wide receiver Desmond Phillips on a 19-yard crossing route to provide the Rockets an early cushion.
Kent State’s offense didn’t make a grand entrance until quarterback Dustin Crum fired a deep pass down the sideline to Mike Carrigan. Carrigan lost his one-on-one defender along the way, waltzing into the end zone to complete a 70-yard score. Carrigan’s touchdown began a four-possession tradeoff between Kent State and Toledo touchdowns. By the time the offenses slowed down, Toledo led 28-17 lead — which ended up being the halftime score.
Toledo’s drives were longer and methodical, relying on Koback and Seymour to provide steady production, while Kent State struck repeatedly with big passing plays, including Carrigan’s long catch-and-run and a screen to Xavier Williams which ended up as a 28-yard touchdown.
Crum, the owner of the FBS’s longest streak without an interception this year, played nearly a perfect game from the pocket. He completed 14/18 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns — averaging over 14 yards per attempt. Crum also ran for 40 yards and an 11-yard touchdown in the late third quarter — a period in which Kent State outscored Toledo, 10-0.
Toledo answered Kent State’s brief scoring run with Seymour’s second touchdown of the night. The long Rockets’ drive began with 1:23 left in the third quarter and served as the third-to-last possession of the night. Kent State responded with a 15-play, 70-yard scoring drive — where Crum threw the touchdown pass but missed the two-point attempt.
Due to Seymour’s ability to trudge through defenders and move the sticks, the Rockets maintained possession for the final 5:27 of the game while Kent State burned their timeouts.
The win springboards Toledo into bowl eligibility for the 10th-straight season (the Rockets weren’t selected despite finishing 7-5 in 2013). Toledo has yet to lose a game in five outings at the Glass Bowl this season, and extended its win streak over Kent State to five games. The Rockets remain in play in a crowded MAC West race despite a massive loss to Ball State several weeks ago. Toledo hopes to keep its home record undefeated when it faces reigning MAC West champion Northern Illinois at the Glass Bowl next Wednesday night.
Attaining bowl eligibility seemed to be a longshot heading into the season for Kent State. While the Golden Flashes started conference play an undefeated 2-0, they have dropped three-consecutive games to .500 or better opponents, each by one possession. Sean Lewis’ team nearly pulled out a road upset over Toledo, but Kent State will have to turn “close” into victories if it hopes to go bowling for the first time since 2012. Buffalo, Ball State, and Eastern Michigan remain on the schedule.