Midweek #MACtion and a grudge match were in the brew for what promised to be an intriguing game in the MAC West dogfight.
The Rockets came into Kelly/Shorts stadium still sore from what has become an infamous defeat at the hands of NIU. The Chips enjoyed witnessing last week's spectacle in Toledo from the sidelines while nursing their MAC West title hopes.
The Rockets (8-1, 5-1 MAC) shook off the effects of last week's loss to NIU by moving 70 yards at will against a perplexed CMU defense. Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely executed a nifty shovel pass to backup tight end Michael Roberts from two yards out putting the Rockets up 7-0 right out of the gate.
Cooper Rush and the Chips (5-5, 4-2 MAC) drove to midfield on their first possession, but the drive ended with a coverage sack. Three plays later, the Rockets were back across the CMU 40 yard line. The Chips had no answer for Rocket passing game early on. Ely was playing a masterful game of hit 'em where they ain't. Finally, on third and seven, the Rockets had to call a time out just to get some air in their lungs. The Chips stopped the Rocket track meet for a moment when Ely finally failed to complete a third down pass.
The next Toledo drive ended in an exclamation mark as Kareem Hunt blew by the CMU defense on a 41 yard touchdown drive. With less than two minutes left in the first quarter, Toledo had a strangle hold on the Chips 14-0.
With CMU's defense having no answer for Ely and Hunt, it would be up to the Chippewa offense to do something to prevent an embarrassment. The problem was that CMU found itself in a third and 14 hole at its own 22 yard line - a recipe for disaster considering the way the game was going.
It was Toledo's night so far. It looked like Ely was going to be sacked on the third play of the Rocket's next possession. Instead, Ely launched a floater while falling to the turf. It wobbled into the hands of Jon'Vea Johnson, who ran it in for a 36 yard score. The Rockets were then up 21-0 over a hapless group from CMU.
Brian Eavey snapped what was an horrific stretch for CMU by connecting from the next area code on a 48 yard field goal. Toledo was now on top 21-3 and looking for more blood. The Rockets cut themselves and the Chips took advantage.
Derrick Edwards, a backup CMU lineman, was an unlikely hero as he recovered a fumble in the Toledo end zone. The play gave the Chips some life. It was Toledo 21-10 with less than 4:00 to play in the half.
The game got interesting on Toledo's next drive. Toledo drove to the CMU 27. The Rockets then turned the ball over on downs. CMU had the ball and 1:30 to do some catching up. Any comeback would have to wait for the second half for CMU after its last offensive drive stalled at midfield.
As crazy as it might have seemed midway thru the first half, momentum was creeping the Chips' way. They had scored the last ten points and would get the ball to start the second half. The question was whether the good Ely or the bad Ely would show up for the Rockets?
The bad Ely led the Rockets to a stalled drive. The Chips got the ball on their own 8 yard line. Cooper Rush led the Chips on an 82 yard scoring drive and Mercy Sakes! We now had ourselves a ballgame. It was Toledo 21-17.
The good Ely connected with Alonzo Russell on a beautiful 61 yard pass play. Toledo was in business at the CMU 9 yard line. Then, the crazy and inexplicable happened. The missed a chip shot field goal. The Chips took over at their 20 with a chance to take the lead. Cooper Rush led the Chips to the Rocket three yard line. An offensive pass interference call and a sack pushed the Chips all the way back to the 33 yard line. Brian Eavey missed a 51 yard field goal and the Rockets were hanging on by their nose cones.
Through three quarters, there was over 700 yard of offense and 71 pass attempts combined between both offenses. Whoever played more defense would win the day.
Following a fourth down stop of CMU at the Rocket 41, crunch time occurred at the CMU 14 yard line with the Rockets looking to convert on a third and four.The Rockets converted and Kareem Hunt scored on a four yard run. Toledo was again in control. It was 28-17 with 7:01 to play. CMU had blinked.
To their credit, the Chips refused to quit. The clock was melting away. CMU scratched it's way to the Rocket five yard line. Anthony Rice caught a five yard touchdown pass and the Chips were becoming pesky again. The two point conversion attempt failed. With 3:26 left Toledo was now holding on 28-23.
A series of mishaps on the ensuing onside kick left the Rockets with the ball at the CMU 22. The fat lady sang. Toledo escaped with a 28-23 victory.
Central Michigan now finds themselves out of the MAC West race, while Toledo will accelerate to key games against Bowling Green and Western Michigan to determine who wins the West, as well as a trip to Detroit.
CMU next plays Kent State on Tuesday night, while Toledo plays bitter rival Bowling Green on Wednesday night. The game times and channels are yet to be determined.