The second string was far from second-rate for the Toledo Rockets Saturday against Central Michigan.
Despite trotting out a quarterback and running back that started the season as backups before injury struck, the Rockets topped the Chippewas 42-28 at the Glass Bowl in Toledo.
With star running back Kareem Hunt sidelined after suffering an ankle injury in the previous week's win over Ball State and Logan Woodside filling in at quarterback after Phillip Ely's torn ACL in week three, the Toledo offense had its way Saturday with seven scoring drives and just a single punt.
Woodside completed 23-of-34 passes for 339 yards on the evening, tossing two touchdowns and rushing for another, and reserve backs Damion Jones-Moore and Terry Swanson added a touchdown apiece and 148 yards on the ground. The usual starters got the job done on offense as well for Toledo, led by Alonzo Russell's two touchdown catches and 120 yards receiving.
Central Michigan had much more positive personnel news, welcoming back play-making wide receiver Titus Davis from a two-game injury layoff and senior running back Thomas Rawls after a two-game suspension resulting from some legal troubles.
Rawls was held to just 65 yards rushing in his return, but did pick up two touchdowns, and Davis was Central Michigan's most productive skill player with six catches for 128 yards. Junior receiver Jesse Kroll hauled in two scores from sophomore quarterback Cooper Rush to account for the Chippewas' other two touchdowns. Rush finished 24-of-31 for 291 yards and two touchdowns.
Toledo struck first with a 32-yard Jeremiah Detmer field goal after taking the opening kickoff, but Central Michigan responded to grab a lead of its own on the ensuing drive. 30 rushing yards from Rawls and a 25-yard catch from Davis set up a 3-yard touchdown pass from Rush to Kroll to put the Chippewas ahead 7-3 nine minutes in.
After Detmer added a 21-yard field goal to pull the Rockets within one entering the second frame, the Rockets rode a defensive stop and a strong passing drive to enter Chippewa territory once more. The hosts were, however, thwarted when Woodside lost a fumble on the Central Michigan 26-yard line.
Another three-and-out stop by the Toledo defense gave the Rockets a second shot at taking the lead, and a 41-yard pass from Woodside to Corey Jones led to the first collegiate touchdown from freshman running back Swanson. The three-yard scoring scamper gave the lead back to the hosts, 13-7, about five minutes before halftime.
Central Michigan went three-and-out once more, giving Woodside the ball on his own 15 with 2:45 to play before the break. The sophomore signal caller put together a surgical 85-yard touchdown drive, capped by a highlight-reel one-handed five-yard touchdown catch by Russell to put Toledo up 20-7 at the half. Woodside, in just his third game starting this season in relief of Phillip Ely, entered the locker room with 257 yards passing to lead his squad's charge.
The Chippewas came out of the break firing, driving 75 yards in the opening drive on the second half to see Rush connect with Kroll in the end zone for the second time. The four-yard score cut the Rockets' lead to six, and the visitors forced a three-and-out to get the ball back with a chance at the lead.
That chance came to nothing, as Toledo defensive back Jordan Haden jumped an out route to pick off Rush and give his offense a short field at the Chippewas' 35. The hosts turned that opportunity into another seven points when Russell hauled in his second touchdown of the day, this time from 12 yards out, to put the Rockets ahead 27-14.
An ensuing successful surprise onside kick gave Toledo the ball at the 50, and once more the Rockets capitalized on good field position when Jones-Moore collected a three-yard rushing score to extend the lead to 34-14. A methodical Chippewas drive followed, however, ending with a three-yard touchdown for Rawls to make it 34-21 entering the final frame.
While Toledo looked to be driving, an interception by Brandon Greer gave the Chippewas an opportunity to cut the lead just after the start of the fourth quarter. Rawls punched in his second rushing touchdown, this time from six yards, to make it 34-28 Toledo with just under eight minutes to play.
Woodside drove his team down the field once more to put the game out of reach, calling his own number for a 12-yard rushing touchdown and following it up with a shovel pass to Jones-Moore for a two-point conversion and a 42-28 lead three minutes from the game's end. One last attempt at a scoring drive by Central Michigan ended with a lost fumble inside Toledo's 10-yard line, sealing the two-score win for the Rockets.
The victory kept Toledo (3-2, 2-0 MAC) in the driver's seat of the MAC West and sent the Chippewas (2-3, 0-1 MAC) to a losing record in their conference opener. Toledo next travels to face Western Michigan Saturday, while Central Michigan will return home Saturday to take on Ohio.