Toledo staged a furious second-half comeback that erased much a 34-point deficit but it wasn’t quite enough as the Rockets fell to Cincinnati, 58-34, Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati (1-0) scored touchdowns on its first six possessions, building leads of 34-0 and 41-7 in the first half. Toledo did not quit, though, cutting the lead to 41-34 early in the fourth quarter. But the Bearcats put the game away with a touchdown and a field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Both teams rolled up more than 500 yards of offense, with the Rockets totaling 563 yards and Cincinnati putting up 584.
The Rockets (1-2) were led by sophomore QB Logan Woodside, who connected on 27-of-40 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Kareem Hunt led the rushing attack with 101 yards, all in the first half, while Corey Jones caught 11 passes for 93 yards and one touchdown.
UC sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel completed 25-of-37 passes for 418 yards and six scores.
Cincinnati set the tone on the game’s first play, a 52-yard pass play from Kiel to Mekale McKay. Two plays later, Kiel hit McKay for a 17-yard TD along the left edge of the end zone.
Toledo’s first drive stalled at midfield, and Cincinnati responded with an eight-play, 81-yard drive that was capped by a 22-yard TD pass from Kiel to Max Morrison. UC extended the lead to 20-0 on an 80-yard drive, then got the ball right back on the UT 14-yard line following a Toledo fumble on the kickoff. Two plays later and four seconds into the second quarter, Kiel found Chris Moore in the end zone to put UC up, 27-0. The margin ballooned to 34-0 when Rod Moore capped a three-play drive with a two-yard run.
Toledo cracked the scoreboard on its first possession of the second quarter on a three-yard rush by Hunt. Hunt also had 19, 21 and 13 yards on the nine-play, 85-yard drive.
The Bearcats capped their first-half scoring with a 12-play, 86-yard drive that made the score, 41-7. Toledo made it 41-14 with 2:07 left in the first half when Russell caught a short pass from Woodside and took it 38 yards to the house.
Toledo narrowed the margin to 41-28 with a pair of touchdown drives to begin the second half sandwiched around a solid defensive stop. Russell caught a 54-yard TD bomb from Woodside on UT’s first possession, then came back with another score on a short drive that was set by a 21-yard punt return by Corey Jones and 15-yard face-mask penalty. Jones caught the TD pass, a 13-yarder on third down to bring the Rockets to within a pair of touchdowns.
The Rocket D stopped Cincinnati again, and the offense responded with three more points. After a 40-yard drive stalled, Jeremiah Detmer knocked home a 23-yard field goal to cut the lead to 41-31 with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
Toledo stopped the UC offense for the third consecutive time in the second half, setting the stage for a 36-yard Detmer field goal that cut the lead to 41-34. The Rockets would have gotten seven points on the drive if Woodside had been able to haul in the throwback pass from Dwight Macon.
Cincinnati then scored for the first time in the second half, capping an eight-play, 75-yard drive with Kiel’s fifth TD pass, an 18-yard strike to Alex Chisum with 11:59 to play. Toledo failed to make a first down on its next drive, and UC settled for a 34-yard field goal to put the game out of reach.
The Rockets open the MAC season at the Glass Bowl next Saturday vs. Ball State.