Junior Phillip Ely made a successful debut as Toledo’s new quarterback and sophomore Kareem Hunt rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns as the Rockets rallied to defeat a tough New Hampshire squad, 54-20, in the season opener for both schools in the Glass Bowl Saturday night.
After misconnecting on two of his first three passes on Toledo’s first series, Ely took command of the game, finishing the contest with 24-of-34 completions for 337 yards and four touchdowns. He led Toledo to seven consecutive touchdown drives from midway through the second quarter until late in the game, turning a close game into a rout.
Hunt, who rushed for the sixth 100-yard game of his career, scored on a two-yard TD run with 24 seconds left in the first half to give Toledo its first lead of the game, 16-14. The Rockets had been trailing, 14-3, midway through the second quarter before touchdowns by sophomore Cory Jones and Hunt gave a boost Toledo going into the locker room
Toledo’s defense was impressive, as well. The Rockets gave up a 35-yard TD pass and one long drive in the first half, but otherwise kept New Hampshire’s veteran offense under control.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 4 in the FCS, got on the board first on a 35-yard pass play from Goldrich to R.J. Harris. Harris grabbed a pass near the line of scrimmage, then used a block to bolt untouched into the end zone. Toledo countered with an 11-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a 22-yard field goal by Jeremiah Detmer.
The teams exchanged punts before New Hampshire struck again, this time on a 13-play, 87-yard drive that was aided by a pair of Rocket penalties. Goldrich took it the final four yards to put the Wildcats up, 14-3.
Moments later, the Rockets cut the score to 14-10 on Ely’s first career touchdown pass, a 64-yard bomb to Corey Jones, which was also his first collegiate TD reception.
Ely began to come into his own on Toledo’s final drive of the half. New Hampshire punter Brad Prasky pinned the Rockets in at their own four-yard line with 2:16 to play. Ely proceeded to match the offense 96 yards in 10 plays and less than two minutes. He completed 5-of-5 passes on the drive. The final two yards came from Hunt, who followed a blocker into the end zone. The extra point attempt was fumbled, giving UT a 16-14 edge to take into the locker room.
New Hampshire gambled on its first possession of the second half and got burned, attempting a fake punt from its own 38-yard line. DeJuan Rogers and Ray Bush stuffed the play, giving Toledo a short field from the 37-yard line. Seven plays later, Hunt bashed through from two yards out, making the score 23-14.
Following a three-and-out by the Wildcats, the Rockets extended the lead to 30-14 on a nine-yard pass play from Ely to senior Justin Olack with 7:02 left in the third quarter. New Hampshire wasn’t finished off, though, scoring on an eight-yard pass from Goldrich to Nico Steriti just moments later. However, the Wildcats attempt to go for two points was thwarted when Steriti was stopped just short of the goal line, making the score 30-20.
Toledo put the game away with three consecutive touchdowns. Olack caught his second TD pass with 1:16 left in the third quarter. Sophomore Damion Jones-Moore followed that up with a seven-yard score with 12:10 left in the game, putting Toledo up safely, 44-20. The score was set up by a 42-yard run by Jones-Moore and a 32-yarder by Hunt. Freshman Terry Swanson hauled in a 40-yarder from Ely moments later to make the score 51-20. Detmer finished off the scoring with a 27-yard field goal, his 15th consecutive conversion going back to last year and his 38uth of his last 39 attempts.
Toledo returns to the Glass Bowl next week to host No. 24 Missouri in a noon kickoff at the Glass Bowl.