The Toledo Rockets (8-1, 5-0 MAC) used some explosive plays to get things rolling in the scoring department and the defense held strong for the third straight week to cruise to a home win over the Buffalo Bulls (3-6, 3-2 MAC). It didn’t end up being the closest game, but there was plenty of MACtion to be had at the Glass Bowl on a snowy Halloween night.
The Rockets started the game off with a bang, as Jacquez Stuart raced 97 yards to the house on the opening kickoff with snow covering swaths of the field. After the defense forced a quick punt, Toledo found the end zone again almost immediately, as running back Peny Boone continued his awesome season with a 71-yard sprint to the endzone.
Toledo got the ball back once again early in the first and Buffalo desperately needed something to happen to prevent the game from getting away from them. Safety Devin Grant came up big once again for the Bulls with an interception on a deep ball by Dequan Finn. It was Grant’s MAC-leading fifth pick of the season.
Buffalo took advantage of that turnover as quarterback Cole Synder found receiver Cole Harrity for a four-yard score. It was one of few bright spots for Snyder on the night, as the Bulls gunslinger would finish 14-of-41 with 151 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Late in the first and early in the second, each team’s defense stiffened up and the game slowed down a bit.
Toledo’s offense found some rhythm once again late in the first half to put the game at a two-score margin, as Finn found tight end Anthony Torres for a 26-yard touchdown to extend the Rockets lead to 21-7. Torres didn’t see many passes come his way early this season but he had four catches for 84 yards in this game, leading Toledo in receiving for a second-straight game.
Toledo had an opportunity to extend their lead on a Chris McDonald interception and did, converting a Luke Pawlak field goal with 54 seconds remaining to put the halftime margin at 24-7.
The Rockets couldn’t capitalize on a Maxen Hook interception in the third quarter, but they did after Quinyon Mitchell blocked a punt, with Jacquez Stuart scoring his second touchdown of the day to give Toledo a 31-7 lead midway through the third.
Although Buffalo looked cooked as the game got deeper into the second half, they still showed some fight. Defensive end Max Michel forced a big fumble with Toledo backed up near their own endzone, which set up a Jacqez Barksdale rushing touchdown. Michel ended up forcing another fumble on the opposite end of the field to prevent Toledo from getting another touchdown.
Buffalo’s defense showed heart and really did give the Toledo offense some trouble, even if the scoreboard may not necessarily reflect it. Dequan Finn finished with a modest 173 yards on 12-of-19 passing and outside of Boone’s 71 yard run, Toledo had 108 yards on the ground on 33 carries. The Bulls also generated four turnovers, with an interception and three fumble recoveries on three forces.
Jason Candle’s squad has hardly played a perfect game this year, but they do enough to win each week. The defense is showing some real consistency and the offense has enough big-play potential to get enough points on the board behind a stellar offensive line.
Buffalo will look to regroup after a nice 3-1 start to MAC play and readjust their expectations a little bit as they sit just one loss away from being eliminated from bowl contention. If they are going to end their season on a high note, it will be because of the guys on their defense like Grant and Michel.
Toledo next takes on Eastern Michigan at home next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Buffalo will host Ohio next Tuesday, which also has a 7:30 p.m. Eastern start time.