The Toledo Rockets (7-5, 5-3 MAC) needed a seventh win in order to assure their participation in the postseason, and get the seventh win to have a guaranteed bowl bid to extend their season they did, defeating the Akron Zips (2-10, 1-7 MAC) by a final score of 49-14 on Saturday afternoon.
It was a dominant effort from the start, as Toledo forced an early Akron three-and-out and took the ensuing possession downfield on an 11-play, 76-yard drive lasting just under four minutes before Bryant Koback ran in for a two-yard touchdown to give the Rockets the 7-0 lead in the early going.
It would take until the second quarter for either side to wake up from their offensive slumbers, as Akron would tie the game up at 7-7 with running back Jonzell Norris’ three-yard reception from senior QB Kato Nelson to cap off a seven-play, 72-yard drive.
Toledo didn’t let the margin stay close for long, notching a 51-yard pass from Dequan Finn to Bryant Koback to take the lead back 14-7 with 10:02 remaining in the second quarter. The Rockets would once again get on the scoreboard with about a minute remaining before the half, this time with a Finn pass to Devin Maddox for a 23-yard receiving touchdown to put the margin at 21-7.
Akron would get another chance to try and score before the end of the half, taking the ball downfield over a 68-yard drive lasting 10 plays in hurry-up fashion, getting all the way to the Toledo seven-yard line with four seconds remaining. After calling timeout, the Zips opted to go for the touchdown instead of the half-ending field goal, resulting in a Jamal Hines sack of Kato Nelson to end the half.
Toledo shut out the Zips over the third quarter, while picking up two more touchdowns to from Bryant Koback (44 yards) and Drew Rosi (33-yard reception from Dequan Finn) to push the margin up to 35-7 in favor of the Rockets. Isaiah Winstead’s 22-yard receiving touchdown early in the fourth quarter gave Toledo a 35-point unanswered streak and put the score at 42-7.
Akron would get back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter on a 72-yard reception by Jonzell Norrils which saw the halfback straddle the sidelines and turn on the afterburners to get the score to 42-14 in favor of Toledo.
Toledo tacked on a late running score with the backups in with just 24 seconds remaining on a Lamy Constant 13-yard scamper to put the score at its final margin of 49-14 Toledo.
Dequan Finn finished the afternoon 16-of-26 for 257 yards and four touchdowns on the day for the Rockets, while Tucker Gleason and Bradley Carter also got some work, combining to go 5-of-9 for 44 yards.
Bryant Koback handled the vast majority of Toledo’s rush yards, with 135 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and two receptions for 53 yards and a score. Lamy Constant was second in rushing with 36 yards and a score, while three other backs logged at least three carries and 20 yards. Georgia transfer Matt Landers led Toledo receivers with five receptions for 57 yards, while four different receivers logged touchdowns and 10 receivers total logged at least one reception.
Jamal Hines led the defensive effort for Toledo with seven tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks and a QB hit, with Nate Bauer (six tackles, .5 tackle-for-loss, .5 sack, one pass break-up) and Maxen Hook (six tackles) other key contributors. Justin Clark also had two tackles-for-loss and sack on three total tackles.
For Akron, Kato Nelson finished 10-of-25 for 125 yards and two touchdowns through the air and had 17 carries for 79 net yards (103 gained) in his final game as a Zip. Joey Marouzek saw some garbage time throws, finishing 3-of-5 for 11 yards.
Jonzell Norris gained 90 yards on 13 attempts to lead the Zips rushing attack, while also leading all receivers with 80 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions. Oran Singleton Jr. (four receptions, 42 yards) and Konata Mumpfield (two receptions, 28 yards) were second and third in receiving, respectively.
Defensively for Akron, Andrew Behm led all tacklers with 11 total tackles, including .5 tackles-for-loss. DiMarco Johnson (nine tackles), Tyson Durant (eight tackles, .5 tackles-for-loss) and Charles Amankwaa (seven tackles, 1.5 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two pass break-ups) were other major contributors.
The win guarantees Toledo a postseason appearance, getting off the six-win bubble, as Saturday night ended with a handful of five-win teams in the Power 5 level getting their needed sixth victories.
Akron is guaranteed a 2-10 finish, and will be a new-look program next offseason, as they continue to seek a replacement for Tom Arth, who was fired mid-season due to performance.