Over a month after Toledo's final game of the 2014 regular season, the Rockets' offense picked up right where it left off - letting Kareem Hunt and the offensive line do the heavy lifting.
Hunt set game records with 271 rushing yards and five touchdowns and senior center Greg Mancz and the Toledo line owned the trenches as Toledo took down Arkansas State 63-44 in the GoDaddy Bowl Sunday in Mobile, Ala.
The star sophomore running back scored from 1, 4, 6, 29 and 44 yards in the dominant effort, which was assisted by two defensive touchdowns as well as two more scores from backup Damion Jones-Moore.
The Red Wolves did not go quietly into the night, forcing every bit of Hunt's greatness with several offensive explosions of their own. Quarterback Fredi Knighten tossed five touchdowns on 402 passing yards and Booker Mays hauled in three scores and 138 yards of his own. Mays got into the end zone from 27, 44 and 55 yards out, as Arkansas State nearly matched Toledo's big play output but came up short in the end.
The Rockets took the first lead of the game just moments into the contest and never trailed. Toledo got an absolute dream start on the first play from scrimmage as Arkansas State received the opening kickoff and Treyvon Hester forced a fumble from Knighten on an option run. The ball rolled backwards, in and out of the grasps of players from both teams, before linebacker Trent Voss fell on it in the end zone to put Toledo up 7-0 just 10 seconds in. It was Toledo's first defensive touchdown of the season.
Almost as quickly, Arkansas State found an equalizer with a quick-strike march to the end zone. The Red Wolves started once more from their own 25, this time finishing the drive in Toledo's end zone following a 44-yard Knighten touchdown pass to Mays. A Logan Spry extra point knotted the game at 7-7 with a full 13:30 still to play in the first frame.
Toledo grabbed the lead back and expanded it with Hunt touchdowns of 4 and 44 yards before Knighten hit paydirt once more with a 66-yard strike to Tres Houston to close out a wild first quarter with the Rockets ahead 21-14.
Arkansas State narrowed the deficit by scoring first in the slower-starting second quarter when Spry connected on a 31-yard field goal 7:13 before halftime, but that close margin was short-lived.
Toledo found the end zone on the ensuing drive as Hunt broke free for a 29-yard score, his third of the game. The marker with 2:25 left in the second frame pushed the junior back to 138 first half yards and moved the Rockets ahead 28-17.
The Red Wolves looked poised to cut the lead just before halftime, marching to the Toledo 23-yard line within the half's final minute. From there, Knighten was met in the backfield during a pass attempt by blitzing cornerback Jordan Martin, who jarred the ball loose, directly into the hands of defensive end Allen Covington. Covington sprinted 67 yards untouched for the Rockets' second defensive touchdown of the contest, 34 seconds before the break. With that, Toledo led 35-17 when the teams headed to the locker rooms.
Toledo's lead got bigger seven minutes into the second half, when Hunt collected his fourth score of the evening from six yards away, putting the Rockets ahead 42-17. However, before the leaders could get too comfortable, Arkansas State struck back with a 55-yard Mays touchdown catch and a 94-yard touchdown off a Money Hunter interception off Logan Woodside to pull within 11 points.
Hunt next gave his side another three-possession lead with his fifth score, this time a one-yard plunge, which was followed by Mays scoring his third touchdown on a 27-yard catch-and-run.
The Rockets went ahead by 18 once more on a Damion Jones-Moore 10-yard run set up by a 40-yard Hunt scamper, seemingly putting the MAC outfit ahead for good at 56-38 with 6:33 left to play. Knighten added his fifth touchdown of the night by hitting Darion Griswold from three yards out, and Arkansas State trailed 56-44 following a failed two-point conversion attempt. Jones-Moore punched in a second touchdown on a 29-yard dash with 1:02 left to set the final score at 63-44.
Toledo finished the season with a 9-4 record, marking the first full season under head coach Matt Campbell to end with a bowl victory. Arkansas State fell to 7-6 in coach Blake Anderson's first season.