It was a game Toledo fans had circled for a long time, and a game that surely meant something a little extra to those within the program.
The Rockets (2-1) traveled to Columbus on Saturday and fought hard against third-ranked Ohio State (3-0), but ultimately, the Buckeyes talent was too much to overcome, as the end result was a 77-21 victory for the Scarlet and Gray.
The game started off well enough for the Rockets. After Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson found the end zone on the opening drive of a game, the Toledo offense responded quickly. After an 18-yard run from Dequan Finn found the Rockets at midfield, Finn scrambled and found freshman receiver Thomas Zsiros for a 50-yard score to tie the game at seven, the first of the young passcatcher’s career.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, and despite Finn’s best efforts, the Buckeyes offensive talents proved to be too much for the Toledo defense. Ohio State had six first half possessions, with all six ending in touchdowns.
Prior to this week, the Rockets defense had given up an average of 183 yards per game through the first two weeks, but the Buckeyes shredded this unit for 451 yards in the first half alone.
The good news was that the Toledo offense was able to sustain quite a few drives throughout this game. The best of the day was an 11 play, 75-yard drive that spanned the end of the first and the beginning of the second quarter. It’s no coincidence that Finn was at his best on this drive, using both his arm and his legs to stay ahead of the chains. After three completions to three different receivers got the Rockets to the Ohio State 23-yard line, Finn capped the drive with a 23-yard touchdown run to pull Toledo within 28-14.
It was as close as the Rockets would get the rest of the way.
Despite the final score here, Toledo has nothing to be ashamed of. Ohio State is supremely talented, and they are a national title contender for a reason. Heisman contender CJ Stroud was fantastic at quarterback, completing 22-of-27 passes for 367 yards and five scores. If that’s not enough, the Buckeyes ground game was firing on all cylinders as well, to the tune of 281 yards and five rushing scores on 6.4 yards per carry.
After two stellar performances to start the year, this Toledo defense was shredded for 763 total yards and 36 first downs. This is not a criticism of the unit. This defense will continue to be one of the best, if not the best, in the MAC. This Ohio State offense will have their way with most teams on their schedule, including those in the Big Ten.
The silver lining here has to be the offense, and more specifically Finn.
The Toledo quarterback never looked out of place in this game, and he never looked like the moment was too big for him. His final stat line is modest, finishing 10-of-19 for 153 yards and two scores through the air, with an additional 70 yards and a score on the ground. At the end of the day, however, he accounted for all three of the Rockets touchdowns, and his athleticism gave this Ohio State defense legitimate headaches at times. Finn is an athletic marvel, and if he can continue to play at this level, there isn’t a team remaining on Toledo’s schedule that they shouldn’t beat.
Surely, Rockets fans will be a little disappointed with this outcome. Many have had this game circled since the 2011 squad came so close to victory in Columbus. Despite the final score, this team has nothing to be ashamed of.
I was a bit of a skeptic of this team coming into the year, but I have been thoroughly impressed through three weeks, including in this game. This team still has all of their goals within reach, and if they continue on this trajectory, there’s no reason to think they won’t reach them.
Toledo will try again for a win next week to close out the non-conference slate, taking on San Diego State on the road on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.