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Toledo Rockets vs. Ball State Cardinals Football Final Score: Toledo Wins 34-23

The Rockets had to weather a storm to slip past Ball State in the conference opener for both teams.

Kareem Hunt was the game's leading rusher despite missing the second half.
Kareem Hunt was the game's leading rusher despite missing the second half.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

No one could accuse Saturday's matchup between Ball State and Toledo of lacking electricity.

In a contest marked by a nearly three-hour lightning delay just minutes into the first quarter, the Rockets got an early jump on the MAC West standings by topping the visiting Cardinals 34-23 at the Glass Bowl in Toledo.

Rockets running back Kareem Hunt collected 142 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries before leaving with an injury in the first half to lead the hosts, and quarterback Logan Woodside added two rushing touchdowns and a passing score to help the cause. The sophomore signal caller finished with 152 yards through the air and 43 on the ground.

Ball State was led by quarterback Ozzie Mann, who went 15-of-27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns as well as running back Jahwan Edwards and his 125 rushing yards.

Upon announcement of a severe thunderstorm warning, the game went under a delay just 5:13 into the first quarter. The delay, split up when an attempt to return to the field partway through was thwarted by a visible lightning strike, lasted two hours and 40 minutes. The contest restarted at around 10 p.m. with the vast majority of the game yet to come.

Like the rain, the injury bug hit both teams, as Hunt missed the entire second half and Ball State lost safety Brian Jones and cornerback Quintin Cooper to injury in the first quarter.

With light cloud cover and no hint of the severe weather to come, the game had a bright start for the home team.

Toledo wasted no time taking the upper hand, taking the first kickoff and opening proceedings with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. A 34-yard Hunt run on the first snap and a 35-yard pass from Woodside to Justin Olack set up a three-yard rushing touchdown for Woodside on a play-action keeper. A missed point after from Jeremiah Detmer left the Rockets ahead 6-0 just over a minute and half into the contest.

After a Ball State punt and the weather delay, Toledo's second drive resembled the first. A 31-yard toss from Woodside to Olack set up another Woodside play-action rushing touchdown, this time from eight yards out, to put the Rockets up 13-0.

Ball State answered back the next drive with a 50-yard Scott Secor field goal, but Toledo made it three straight touchdown drives when Hunt ran 14 yards for a score to put the home team ahead 20-3. That lead was dented to 20-9 by ensuing 45-yard and 22-yard boots by Secor.

Toledo had a look at adding to the lead just before halftime, marching within the red zone, but a Woodside fumble at Ball State's 17-yard line with 31 seconds left in the half ensured the score would remain 20-9 at the break.

The first half was not all fun and games for Toledo, as Hunt left with a tweaked ankle after 12 carries, and spent the second half on the sidelines in street clothes.

A sluggish second half followed the shortened halftime, but the hosts were first to draw blood on the other side of the break. Alonzo Russell hauled in a 26-yard Woodside strike to extend the Rockets' lead to 27-9 with 3:28 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals answered 90 seconds later when Mann fired a 43-yard touchdown to KeVonn Mabon to pull within 27-16.

Hunt's backup at running back, Damion Jones-Moore, helped the hosts expand upon their lead once more, putting Toledo ahead 34-16 with a seven-yard touchdown scamper with 10:19 left to play. The Cardinals then pulled back within two possessions when Mann hit Jordan Williams in the end zone from eight yards away to cut Toledo's lead to 34-23, but that would be the final scoring play of the day as the Cardinals never got the ball back in the final 5:55 of the contest.

The Rockets (2-2, 1-0 MAC) will stay in town to host Central Michigan in one week, while the Cardinals (1-3, 0-1 MAC) will take next weekend off before traveling to West Point to battle Army on Oct. 4. The matchup was the first battle between MAC West teams on the season, making Toledo the early division leader and temporarily placing the Cardinals in the basement.