With a close battle throughout and a late chance at a tie game in blustery, snowy conditions, Wednesday's contest between Toledo and Bowling Green certainly looked like a rivalry game.
The Rockets rode a powerful game from Kareem Hunt and a few big plays from their pass rush to overcome Bowling Green 27-20 at the Glass Bowl, marking their fifth straight win in the Battle of I-75.
Bowling Green started its final drive of the game at its own 23-yard line down 27-20 with 1:29 left, but the Falcons turned it over on downs after gaining just three yards to seal the win for the host Rockets.
Both teams kept the quarterback carousel in full swing, as Bowling Green alternated between usual starter James Knapke and wide receiver Ronnie Moore in a Wildcat Formation role before going to freshman Cody Callaway in the fourth quarter, and Toledo used a combination of Logan Woodside with wide receiver and emergency quarterback Dwight Macon.
Hunt stole the show on offense, helping the hosts overcome three turnovers - two Woodside interceptions and a Macon fumble - with a dominant 265-yard rushing performance. The sophomore racked up 8.8 yards per carry on the evening, which included touchdown runs of two and 91 yards to complement two scoring scampers by Mason. The big night also meant Hunt passed 1,000 yards on the ground for the season.
Woodside, who appeared to be hampered by a lingering ankle injury that made him a game-time decision, finished the game 8-for-18 with just 53 yards through the air.
While Bowling Green won the turnover battle 3-0 and blocked two kicks, the Falcons offense struggled to piece together enough consistent threats and paid for it on the scoreboard. Callaway led the aerial charge with 116 yards and a touchdown, but completed just five of his 13 attempts after taking over in the fourth quarter. Moore collected 110 total yards running and receiving, with a touchdown in both categories.
Toledo took the ball to start, but the opening drive for the hosts ended with a turnover on downs at the Bowling Green 31-yard line. The Rockets forced a punt on the ensuing Falcons possession, however, and drove down the field to draw first blood on a Hunt two-yard touchdown run. The Falcons nearly got a few points of their own when Taylor Royster blocked the point-after attempt, but Toledo punter Nick Ellis made a shoestring tackle to save the two points on the return.
Bowling Green, buoyed by a 31-yard third down keeper run by Moore, cut the lead in half with a 23-yard Tyler Tate field goal just before the end of the first quarter.
The hosts extended their lead into the second quarter, as three possessions later Hunt's 44-yard scamper led to a two-yard Macon touchdown on a play-action keeper. Rockets kicker Jeremiah Detmer connected for his first time of the night to make it 13-3 Toledo.
The Rockets looked to be driving again when Nick Johnson picked off Woodside, and a long return was made longer by a personal foul on Woodside. Starting at the Toledo 14, Moore collected a 10-yard touchdown run to complete a two-play drive and pull the Falcons within 13-10, the final scoring play of the first half.
Ten minutes into a defense-dominated third quarter, Bowling Green appeared to take its first lead when Knapke hit Roger Lewis for a 37-yard touchdown, only to see it called back on an illegal touching penalty when officials determined Lewis had stepped out of bounds before making the catch.
Toledo made the most of the second chance, taking over on an ensuing punt and adding to its lead with one play. Hunt used an early burst and some evasive open-field moves to race to a 91-yard rushing score, increasing the home team's advantage to 20-10. The run was the third-longest in Toledo history and put him over 200 yards rushing on the evening.
Despite failing to get the offense going, Bowling Green pulled closer when Clinton Stephens returned Woodside's second interception of the evening into the red zone, culminating in a 38-yard Tate field goal to make it a one-score contest. A 77-yard Kishon Wilcher kick return set up Toledo to build up the lead once more, but Bowling Green blocked another kick, this time a 29-yard field goal attempt performed by linebacker Gabe Martin.
The Falcons rode that wave into a long scoring drive, as freshman backup quarterback Callaway led an 86-yard scoring drive with 79 yards through the air and a 17-yard touchdown to Moore, tying the game at 20 with just over 13 minutes left. Callaway racked up those stats with three completions on just four attempts, after Knapke was pulled for going 7-of-24 for just 71 yards to that point.
Toledo took the lead back nearly as quickly as it gave it away, when Macon punched in his second touchdown of the contest from seven yards out just over two minutes later. Detmer's point after split the uprights untouched, putting the Rockets ahead 27-20 with 10:45 to play.
After traded punts, Bowling Green marched into Toledo territory, but the Falcons turned the ball over on downs on the Toledo 37 with just over three minutes left to play. The visitors faced a fourth-and-11, and linebackers Junior Sylvestre and Trent Voss teamed up for a sack to get the ball back with a chance to bleed the clock.
Bowling Green's defense did enough to give its offense a chance to tie the game with one final drive, but a huge sack from Tre James and three consecutive incompletions from Callaway sunk the Falcons' hopes of a comeback, ending the game at 27-20.
Toledo (7-4, 6-1 MAC) still needs help to advance to the MAC title game, but can do so with a win against Eastern Michigan Nov. 28 and a Western Michigan victory over Northern Illinois. Bowling Green (7-4, 5-2 MAC) had already clinched its MAC East title a week prior, and will finish the regular season at home against Ball State Nov. 28. The Falcons will seek their first win against MAC West opposition, following their losses to Toledo and Western Michigan.