ATHENS, Ohio - The University of Toledo took just enough advantage of repeated trips into the red zone last night to pick up a key Mid-American Conference victory.
The Rockets posted 529 yards of total offense, but managed just three touchdowns and escaped with a 30-21 win over Ohio University before 21,034 fans at Peden Stadium and a national TV audience.
Jason Robbins chipped in with three field goals for Toledo, including the one that pretty much iced the decision by making it a two-possession game with six minutes to play.
The win, on the heels of UT's first league loss last Saturday at Central Michigan, upped the Rockets' record to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in league play. Ohio dipped to 4-5, 3-3.
"This was a huge game for us, coming off a loss and going right back on the road," said quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who completed 22 of 31 passes for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding 51 yards on the ground. "We were able to do everything offensively, running or passing."
Despite being out-gained by 235 yards, the Bobcats managed to hang around until Robbins' last field goal and two late interceptions by UT defenders Anthony Jordan and Keon Jackson.
"I looked down the schedule long ago and figured this would be a lot tougher game than people were thinking," said Toledo coach Tom Amstutz. "Ohio is much improved, plus we were looking at two long bus trips with a short week in between.
"But our kids were focused and played with a lot of heart. We ran our offense the way it's supposed to be run and kept Ohio's defense off balance. Trinity [Dawson] and Quinton [Broussard] really ran hard."
Dawson carried 28 times for a career-high 167 yards and also caught two touchdown passes. Broussard added 68 yards on nine carries.
UT's rushing total, 293 yards, was its second highest of the season and was about 200 more than the Rockets managed a week ago.
"All week long we talked about bouncing back and making this a statement game," said sophomore offensive guard David Perkins, who had a key recovery of a Dawson fumble deep in Ohio territory before Robbins' last field goal.
"We knew from the jump that Ohio had a talented defensive line. We had to come out with an intensity that they couldn't match. We still didn't finish drives the way we need to. That was sort of like last week."
But the outcome was not.
Early in the second half, for a second time, a major penalty against OU aided a Toledo scoring drive.
Gradkowski rolled to the right sideline and finally released a pass that fell incomplete, but tackle Landon Cohen was called for a roughing penalty while driving Gradkowski out of bounds.
Later, Broussard took a pitch to the right, broke two tackles and stepped into the open for a 31-yard gain. Gradkowski then beat a blitz with a quick flip to Dawson, who went 18 yards for the score and a 27-14 UT lead.
That capped a stretch of 17 straight UT points after falling behind 14-10 late in the second quarter.
The Rockets also trailed 7-3, but grabbed the lead back right away with Gradkowski completing all four attempts on one drive for 69 yards. The touchdown came on a quick flip to Dawson, the hot receiver against a linebacker blitz, and the UT back sprinted 20 yards for a 10-7 edge.
It didn't last long - less than three minutes, in fact - as a completed pass and a roughing-the-passer penalty against UT's Antonio Malone added up to a 39-yard OU gain. The Rockets chipped in with another penalty, as well, with several linemen jumping offside on a fourth-and-one play from the Toledo 10.
OU's Kalvin McRae scored from five yards out on the next play for Ohio's 14-10 lead.
UT then scored the last 10 points of the half. Back-to-back gains of 21 and 16 yards on rushes by Dawson and Broussard, respectively, set up a one-yard sneak by Gradkowski for a TD with 5:42 left in the half.
A 24-yard field goal by Robbins capped the first-half scoring with 39 seconds left.
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