Toledo had an errand to run Wednesday night roughly 25 miles down the road. The Rockets entered Bowling Green with a mission of flaunting the Battle of I-75 Trophy in front of the Falcons only to return home with the hardware. Toledo handled that business by annihilating its crosstown rival, 49-17, to claim the trophy for the 11th time in 12 seasons.
The wounds of an inexplicable 20-7 defeat from the last meeting at Doyt Perry Stadium remained fresh in the minds of the Rockets. Toledo’s offense conducted the exact opposite performance and registered 49 points for the second consecutive week, ensuing the Battle of I-75 Trophy didn’t have a one-way ticket to Bowling Green.
Running back Bryant Koback launched the scoring effort for the night with a breakaway 50-yard touchdown run on Toledo’s opening drive. After the defense forced its second consecutive three-and-out to start the contest, Toledo continued to feed its reliable veteran. Koback put the Rockets up two scores on a 10-yard touchdown run — his second and final score in a 121-yard performance. Koback moved into fifth all-time in Toledo’s rushing yards leaderboard after his third consecutive 100-yard showing.
Following Koback’s early scores, one man accounted for all five of Toledo’s remaining touchdowns. Quarterback Dequan Finn began the season as the backup, but the redshirt freshman continues to blossom into one of the MAC’s most lethal weapons each time he takes the field. Coming off a career-high passing performance against Eastern Michigan, Finn proved last Tuesday was no fluke. He posted 270 yards and three touchdowns through the air on a 75 percent completion rate, but his talents weren’t limited to the pocket. Finn scrambled for a pair of touchdowns as well, maneuvering through Bowling Green defenders on multiple occasions to reach paydirt.
Finn’s first rushing score occurred at the 3:34 mark of the second quarter to hand the Rockets a 21-10 advantage. Including that touchdown, Toledo effectively won the game by in those waning minutes of the first half. The Rockets defense forced another pair of three-and-outs and the offense quickly capitalized in the moments in between. Finn found seventh-year senior Danzel McKinley-Lewis on a 56-yard bomb to increase the margin to 18 and then connected with Matt Landers in the end zone to produce a halftime score of 35-10.
Bowling Green’s offensive production considerably lagged behind. The Falcons generated a grand total of 67 passing yards on 25 attempts against the MAC’s second ranked pass defense. Bowling Green saw flashes of promise in the running game, but the 134 rushing yards compiled by their top three running backs weren’t enough to pierce through Toledo. Terion Stewart notched a first quarter rushing touchdown and Nate Needham improved to 15/15 on field goals this season — but Bowling Green’s scoring opportunities instantly declined after cutting the deficit to 14-10.
On the defensive side of things, Toledo held every advantage. The Rockets won the turnover battle and sacked Bowling Green on five occasions, while the Falcons defense was unable to get to Finn once. Edge rusher Jamal Hines was especially stellar for the Rockets with two sacks and seven tackles as Toledo’s defense limited a team under 20 points for the fifth time in 2021.
The victory sets Toledo one win away from attaining bowl eligibility. Despite finishing .500 or better in the last two seasons, it’s been three years since the Rockets have participated in the postseason under Jason Candle. Toledo will be favored to win out against a pair of teams that have already missed out on bowl eligibility — Ohio and Akron.
One other MAC team officially lost its bowl hopes, and that’s Bowling Green. After a promising 2-2 start with a landmark win over Minnesota, the Falcons have dropped five of their last six to ensure no bowl visit for the sixth consecutive year. Scot Loeffler and his program hope to carry some momentum into 2022 though, with Miami (OH) and Ohio lurking on the schedule.