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2023 MAC Football Week 8 Game Recap: Toledo Rockets 21, Miami RedHawks 17

The Rockets win a colossal road battle to move to 7-1, taking down fellow divisional leader Miami.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Toledo Rockets (7-1, 4-0 MAC) picked up a huge road victory Saturday night in Oxford, Ohio, defeating the Miami RedHawks (6-2, 3-1 MAC) by a final score of 21-17. The Rockets offense got off to a hot start and were able to fend off a late comeback attempt by the RedHawks, who saw their quarterback Brett Gabbert go down with a right leg injury in the second half.

Early on, Toledo looked unstoppable. Dequan Finn was surgical as he led the team on three straight touchdowns drives while completing 13-of-16 passes for 147 yards in the first half.

On the first Rockets scoring drive, Finn made a number of short completions and eventually found Devin Maddox for a three-yard connection to give Toledo their first lead.

During Toledo’s next scoring drive, Finn and the running back duo of Jacquez Stuart and Peny Boone made things happen on the ground. Finn capped off that 16-play, 75 yard drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown.

The next time the Rockets got the ball back, they got right back to putting pressure on the Miami defense. Tight end Anthony Torres had two receptions on this drive including an impressive 20-yard touchdown grab where he elevated over the defender to make the catch. Torres led the team in receiving yards on the day with 49.

Unlike Toledo, Miami couldn’t get much going with quarterback Brett Gabbert struggling to get in rhythm. The one scoring drive that resulted in a field goal was made possible by running back Rashad Amos, who compiled 49 yards on the ground on the drive.

Despite being down 21-3 at the break, Chuck Davis’ squad broke out of their funk and made it a game in the second half, largely thanks to the defense.

After a defensive stop to open the half, made possible by a 16-yard sack by Matt Salopek, Miami finally found the end zone. Following a 17-yard pass from Gabbert to Gage Larvadain — who had a game-high 85 receiving yards — running back Kenny Tracy ran it in from short range.

Although they gave up a couple scores, Toledo’s defense didn’t exactly back down in the second half. Dallas Gant picked off Gabbert after receiver Joe Wilkins failed to corral the ball, continuing a nice day for the veteran linebacker. Gant finished with five tackles, a sack and a pick.

When Miami got the ball back still in the third, Gabbert made his biggest play of the game—but also suffered a bad injury. A few plays after completing a dot of a ball to Kevin Davis for 43 yards, Gabbert was down in serious pain following a short run on a second-and-goal situation. The injury was obvious immediately, as Gabbert threw his helmet down in frustation and screamed audibly.

After being surrounded by members of both football teams, Gabbert would be strapped to a stretcher and have an air cast attached to his right leg, leaving the game in an ambulance. As of publication, there is no update on his situation. Gabbert did have movement in his extremities, giving the crowd a wave as he departed.

Rashad Amos did his best to rally the dejected crowd by running it in from short range on the next play to cut Toledo’s lead and put the score at 21-17. Amos would finish with 55 yards on ten carries and a touchdown.

After that touchdown, the most anticipated MAC matchup of the year became a punt fest. The Rockets and RedHawks traded seven straight punts with members of each team’s defense flying all over the field.

For Toledo, Adrian Woliver came up with two big sacks late and cornerbacks Quinyon Mitchell and Chris McDonald stayed glued to receivers — the two would each finish with three pass deflections on the night.

Miami only finished with one sack in the game, but had six tackles-for-loss including a few big ones late. Linebackers Caiden Woullard and Corban Hondru and defensive lineman Brian Ugwu all got in on the action with TFL’s in the fourth quarter.

Although Miami had some momentum with the home crowd — that was making tons of noise with giveaway vuvuzelas — behind them, it was going to be tough for the RedHawks to rally without Gabbert. Backup quarterback Aveon Smith didn’t look particularly comfortable under center and couldn’t get much going with the offense. With just over a minute left in the game, he had the ball knocked out of his hand by Toledo’s Judge Culpepper and it was recovered by the Rockets, essentially icing the game.

The win will feel great for the Rockets because this was likely their toughest regular season conference matchup. The offense looked great in the first half and the defense held strong for most of the game. There will be a few concerns about consistency but as long as the Rockets keep winning, the Toledo faithful can’t complain too much.

For Miami, they can still win the MAC East, but if Gabbert is really out for the season it will be tough. They’ll need the defense to be what we saw in the second half of Saturday’s game if they are going to do it.

Toledo returns home to play Buffalo on Tuesday, October 31 for the weeknight night MACtion game of the year.

Miami will take on Ohio in Athens next Saturday in a game that has major MAC East implications.