The Toledo Rockets (2-1) looked to avenge a last-second loss to the Western Michigan Broncos in Week 2, which left them outside looking in on the division title race, and they did so in dramatic fashion, downing Eastern Michigan (0-3) on the road by a final score of 45-28 on Wednesday night.
The Rockets picked up 489 yards of total offense and five touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball en route to what turned out to be a dominant effort at Rynearson Stadium, with Eli Peters (11-of-15, 190 yards, two touchdowns) and Carter Bradley (5-of-8, 108 yards, two touchdowns) combining for four touchdowns through the air, and Bryant Koback (24 yards, 149 yards) adding another score on the ground to put the game away in the third quarter.
Toledo opened the scoring on two consecutive offensive drives, as Peters found Devin Maddox at the end of an 11-play, 82-yard drive lasting 4:47 with a minute remaining in the first quarter, and then came back to find Danzel McKinley-Lewis on a 68-yard hook-up on the first play of their next drive to post up a 14-0 lead at the 14:37 mark of the second quarter.
Eastern finally found their way onto the scoreboard with the first of four Preston Hutchison touchdown strikes (25-of-38, 244 passing yards,) this one going to newly-minted schoalrship player Tanner Knue on a 17-yard pass directly following a punt return fumble by Toledo’s Ronnie Blackmon to put the score at 14-7 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Toledo went right back down the field, with a 10-play, 71-yard drive ending in Bryant Koback’s sole rushing touchdown of the day, pulling the Rockets ahead 21-7 and shaving 5:18 off the clock. Eastern Michigan’s Trey Bess fumbled the ball on the first play of the next series, allowing Toledo another chance at points, but ultimately couldn’t convert on a missed 40-yard field goal from placekicker Evan Davis.
During this series of drives, Eli Peters suffered two brutal hits which eventually resulted in his removal from the game, including a hit suffered during a roughing the passer penalty on a called-back interception and the sack which would take him out of the game. His status for next week’s game is currently unknown.
Carter Bradley was the man called upon to take Peters’ place, and would lead the Rockets to another score just before halftime, thanks to another untimely EMU fumble, this time by Karmi Mackey. Davis got his mulligan for the previous missed field goal, hitting from 39 yards out to put Toledo up 24-7 at the half.
In the second half, Bradley would all but put away the Eagles with two quick touchdown drives, ending with a 24-yard pass to Isaiah Winstead and a 57-yard strike to Ronnie Blackmon, respectively, to put Toledo up 38-7 early in the third quarter.
Hutchison, for his part, didn’t give up the ship, leading a 12-play, 75-yard drive lasting nearly five minutes to find DJ Smith for a nine-yard score to end the third quarter, with the score placed at 38-13 after a failed two-point attempt.
EMU looked good for a potential rally after blocking a field goal at the end of a nine-play, 54 yard drive, taking the ball at their own 20. But just three plays later, Hutchison threw his only interception of the afternoon, which was returned for a touchdown by Jamal Hines to put Toledo up to 45-13.
Hutchison would throw two more touchdowns, hooking up with Quiuan Williams on a 12-yard strike, Tanner Knue for the ensuing two-point conversion, and an eight-yard ball to Bryson Cannon at the end of a 17-play, 63 yard drive with eight seconds remaining to bring the game to its final tally.
Toledo will look to keep pace in the MAC West division race—and hope for some chaos— and next play Ball State at 12 noon Eastern time on Saturday, November 28. Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, will defend home turf against Michigan MAC rival Central Michigan in a Black Friday matchup at 4 p.m. EST on Friday, November 27.