In one of the most stunning performances in recent Mid-American Conference history, the Toledo Rockets (5-2, 3-0 MAC West) bridged a 21-0 gap built up by the Kent State Golden Flashes (2-5, 1-2 MAC East) in the first quarter to win the game by the final tally of 52-31 on Saturday afternoon in the Glass Bowl.
The star of the show was one Dequan Finn, who tossed six touchdowns and ran for another to bury the Flashes late in the game, completing 72.7 percent of his passes (16-of-22) and airing it out for 263 yards in the process for an incredibly efficient day at the office.
It was a hard road to plow for the Rockets early on, as the Flashes caught the defense napping early with two 17-yard pitch-and-catches from Collin Schlee to Dante Cephas helping to set up what would become a three-yard touchdown by Marquez Cooper to put points on the board first.
A quick three-and-out later, and KSU would once again shock Toledo with a 38-yard pass to Ja’Shaun Poke to set up another quick drive, ultimately culminating in a 12-yard Collin Schlee scramble for another touchdown to put KSU up 14-0.
Lady Luck smiled brightly on the Flashes once again on the next defensive possession, as Montre Miller would strip Jerjuan Newton of the ball on the first play from scrimmage and the Flashes would recover. One play later, the Kent State lead expanded to 21-0 on the feet of Marquez Cooper, who ran it in from 19 yards out.
Dequan Finn would stop the bleeding with a 27-yard designed QB run for a score, getting the Rockets on the board at 21-7 with 7:18 remaining the first quarter.
The teams would exchange punts from there, with the next score being right off the quarter break, as Collin Schlee nabbed his second touchdown of the day with his feet from 10 yards out to push the margin to 28-7.
Toledo’s offense woke up after that, with the Rockets scoring three touchdowns on their next three drives to tie the game back up at 28-28, all on incredible explosive pass plays, as Finn found Davin Maddox from 27 yards out, Jerjuan Newton from 36 yards out and Mikel Barley from 39 yards out to effectively reset the game with 3:52 remaining in the half.
The Flashes would get a last shot at points, but had to settle for an Andrew Glass field goal from 20 yards out to cap a 12-play, 62-yard drive, putting the halftime score at 31-28 in favor of Kent State.
That would be the last time the Flashes held the lead, as Thomas Cluckey would tie the game with a 43-yard field goal with 8:43 remaining in the third quarter, and the offense would take care of the rest, with Finn finding Jamal Turner for a seven-yard touchdown to officially take the lead, then tacking on additional touchdown tosses to Newton and Barkley to effectively put the game away with 7:39 remaining.
It was a banner day offensively for the Rockets, who were 7-of-12 on third-down and 1-1 on fourth-down conversions, while holding onto the ball for over 33 minutes and averaging a nice 6.9 yards per game.
Jerjuan Newton led all receivers with 125 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions, while Mikel Barkley (three catches, 61 yards, two scores) and Devin Maddox (five catches, 61 yards, one score) also contributed to the Rockets attack. Finn led Toledo with 87 rushing yards and had a rushing touchdown, with Peny Boone (84 yards on 20 carries) and Micah Kelly (68 yards on 10 carries) also shouldering the rushing load.
Judge Culpepper led the Rockets with 10 tackles and two tackles-for-loss, while Jamal Hines had the lone sack of the night. ROVER safety Nate Bauer caught an interception shortly after the Rockets took the lead, while defensive lineman Darius Alexander had two pass break-ups to lead the team.
Collin Schlee struggled for plays in structure against a tough Toledo defensive unit, finishing 13-of-26 for 162 yards and an interception, though he did have two rushing touchdowns in the first half.
Marquez Cooper led all rushers with 162 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries for the Flashes, while Schlee had 56 yards. On the receiving end, Dante Cephas hauled in three catches for 57 yards, Ja’Shaun Poke returned from a hip injury for four catches and 57 yards, and Devontez Walker had four catches for 32 yards.
Nico Bolden (14 tackles) and Marvin Pierre (11 tackles) topped the tackle charts for KSU on a day where they struggled for penetration overall. Saivon Davis and Zayin West each had one solo tackle-for-loss, with Davis getting the only sack of the day. Defensive lineman Oliver Billotte had the team’s only pass break-up.
Toledo will next face the MAC East division leader Buffalo Bulls in a clash of titans which will help the winner maintain control of their own destiny in the league. Kent State will need to get pointed in the right direction, and a rivalry trophy game against 1-6 Akron could be just the motivation they need.