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2023 MAC Football Week 6 Game Recap: Toledo Rockets 41, UMass Minutemen 24

The Rockets show resiliency and take control late in final non-conference game of the season.

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-Liberty at Toledo Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

UMass (1-6) made some plays to take a lead going into halftime, but Toledo (5-1, 2-0 MAC) kicked it into high gear in the second half to get the 42-24 road win on Saturday afternoon. The Rockets running game shredded the Minutemen defense en route, collecting 375 yards between four rushers in the contest.

The matchup in Amherst started out very competitive as UMass jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead and the Rockets followed that with 10 straight points of their own. It was the running backs that got in the end zone on these opening possessions. For the home team, Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams scored from 47 yards out while Peny Boone scampered for a 21 yard touchdown of his own for the visitors.

Toledo looked like they might get some separation early after a 10-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a Dequan Finn to Jerjuan Newton passing touchdown to give them a 17-7 lead. However, Minutemen QB Taisun Phommachanh immediately threw a bomb down field to Anthony Simpson who was all by himself — easily waltzing in for the response score.

On that touchdown play, Phommachanh took a big hit but got right back up. It wasn’t the first time the Minutemen signalcaller would show resilience as he dealt with some left foot discomfort in the game, all while wearing a big knee brace to help with an injury he picked up earlier this season.

After a quick three-and-out by Toledo, Phommachanh got the UMass offense rolling again, leading his team on a 82-yard touchdown drive. George Johnson III caught a 31-yard touchdown to complete the scoring drive after a perfectly executed play action.

With the home team leading 21-17, each team’s defense stiffened up before the half. UMass’ Juan Lua picked off Dequan Finn, but the Toledo defense would respond by forcing a three-and-out. Linebacker D’Andre Ragin was a force for the Rockets defense in the game tallying 2.5 tackles-for-loss.

Just before the half, the Minutemen received the ball in good field position but Toledo’s D forced UMass kicker Cameron Carson into a 58-yard field goal try that was no good. When the game restarted in the second, Toledo stepped on the gas on both sides of the ball.

After gaining some ground on a 17-yard run, Dequan Finn dashed 56 yards to the house to give Toledo the lead back early in the third quarter. After the defense forced a UMass punt on the next possession, the Rockets struck again— this time on Peny Boone’s second rushing touchdown of the game, a 49-yarder through early contact.

Boone finished with 129 yards and now has 644 on the season through six games after entering the season as the backup running back.

Down 31-21 midway through the third, UMass needed a scoring drive. Phommachanh led his team into field goal range and Carson hit a 49-yarder, but it would be the Minutemen’s last score of the contest.

Dequan Finn didn’t need to throw it a ton, but when he did, he was mostly sharp. Late in the third, he delivered a bullet in a tight window to Jerjuan Newton for a 20-yard touchdown. Finn finished with a game-high 172 yards and a touchdown on the ground and tallied 139 in the air with two touchdowns and a pick.

The story for Newton was adding to an impressive season stat. After his two receiving touchdowns, he is up to nine on the season which matches his total from last year. That also put him in the lead in the FBS in that category as of publication.

The Toledo defense was spotty in the first half but was tough on UMass when it mattered most. As the Minutemen were reeling, down two touchdowns near the end of the third quarter, the pass rush forced Phommachanh into a bad throw deep downfield that was picked off by Emmanuel McNeil-Warren in the endzone.

Saturday’s game saw the return of Terrance Taylor to the linebacker unit and his box score doesn’t show anything amazing but he played a big role in Toledo’s pass rush. Judge Culpepper also made an impact late, stepping up on the D-line that had issues early in the game.

In the end, Toledo was able to cruise to a win made possible by a great second half by both the offense and defense. The defensive issues in the first half will remain a concern for Jason Candle. Either way, Toledo can succeed as long as their offense plays at the level that it has all season.

The Rockets take on Ball State on the road next Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, looking to attain bowl eligibility and move to 3-0 in league play.