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Toledo holds off Eastern Michigan in MAC opener, 20-15

Interceptions cement win, but Rockets lose Cody Thompson to injury

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    UT running back Shakif Seymour scores a touchdown against Eastern Michigan in the second quarter of Saturday's game at the Glass Bowl.

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    Toledo's Cody Thompson is brought down and injured by an Eastern Michigan defender.

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    Toledo's Art Thompson runs the ball against Eastern Michigan.

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    Toledo's Kahlil Robinson intercepts the football during a key play during the second half.

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    Toledo's Art Thompson runs the ball against Eastern Michigan.

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    Eastern Michigan's Jalen Phelps breaks up a touchdown pass to Toledo's Diontae Johnson.

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    Toledo's Diontae Johnson takes a moment during the game.

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    Toledo's Ja'Wuan Woodley, 30, and Jordan Williams break up an end zone pass.

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    Toledo's Ja'Wuan Woodley, 30, breaks up an end zone pass to Eastern Michigan's Johnnie Niupalau.

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    Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside looks to hand off.

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    UT running back Shakif Seymour, 21, and wide reciever Diontae Johnson celebrate Seymour's touchdown late in the 2nd quarter.

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    Toledo's Kahlil Robinson evades Eastern Michigan's Jimmy Leatiota.

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University of Toledo sophomore defensive back Kahlil Robinson came up with two fourth-quarter interceptions as the Rockets held off Eastern Michigan 20-15 in a game which saw star UT receiver Cody Thompson go down with a serious leg injury on the first drive.

With Toledo clinging to a five point lead with less than a minute left in the game, Robinson stepped in front of a receiver running an out pattern and picked off EMU quarterback Brogan Roback, effectively ensuring the Toledo win.

“It was a perfect play call for the defense,” Robinson said. “Our defensive line was able to put pressure on the quarterback. I was just in a good position, so it was just right play, right position, and right time.”

IN PICTURES: Toledo 20, Eastern Michigan 15

NOTEBOOK: Thompson injury puts damper on Toledo win

It was a fitting way to end the game on a day that both defenses were dominant.

“I think that is exactly what we have to do if we are going to be the defense we want to establish and we talk about being all the time,” Robinson said. “Turnovers are key in doing what we set out to do.”

The day started ominously for Toledo, as on the first drive, Thompson hauled in a 35-yard pass from Logan Woodside but injured his leg while being dragged to the ground. His leg was put in an air cast and he was carted off the field.

After the game, Toledo coach Jason Candle was not sure of the exact injury Thompson suffered, but was not hopeful the team will get him back this season.

“It looks like we probably won’t get him back,” Candle said. “It’s a big loss for our football team. Cody is a warrior and he has meant a lot to this football program. He’s a guy that has done everything right.”

Without Thompson and without starting running back Terry Swanson, who missed the game with an ankle injury, Toledo wasn’t the dominant offensive team that they had been all season.

Woodside finished the game 23-of-34 for 289 yards and no touchdown passes. Art Thompkins led the rushing attack with 94 yards and a touchdown, while Shakif Seymour added 55 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Diontae Johnson had eight catches for 97 yards.

“It was a really hard-fought football game,” Candle said. “Hats off to Eastern, they played us tough for all 60 minutes. I kind of expected it to be that way. They are the number one scoring defense in our conference for a reason. It’s not a one-game sample. We were able to go get a win and I’m certainly proud of the effort of our team to finish it off and take that next step.”

Toledo trailed 6-3 for most of the second quarter, before Seymour scored on a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 2:19 left in the opening half to give UT a 10-6 halftime advantage.

The Rockets added to their lead with an 18-yard TD run by Thompkins in the middle of the third quarter. After a field goal by Eastern Michigan’s Paulie Fricano, Roback found Antoine Porter on a 12-yard TD pass. Eastern Michigan appeared to tie the game after Roback connected with Porter for the 2-point conversion, but the play was overturned on replay, allowing Toledo to hang onto a 17-15 edge with 9:14 left.

Jameson Vest added a 20-yard field goal with 2:58 left, which was set up by Robinson’s first interception of the game.

That lead to the final drive for Eastern Michigan and the heroics of Robinson on defense. The UT defense was good all game long, limiting the Eagles to 326 yards of total offense.

“We pride ourselves on playing good defense here,” UT junior Olasunkanmi Adeniyi said. “The past few weeks, we haven’t lived up to that and we kind of had to step up.”

In a tightly-contested game, Toledo (4-1, 1-0 MAC) had to battle for its first Mid-American Conference win and fourth win of the season. Eastern Michigan, meanwhile falls to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the MAC after losing tight contests with Ohio and Kentucky leading up to this game.

“In this conference you have to fight for every game,” Woodside said. “It’s such a tight conference and I give Eastern all the credit in the world. They have a really good defense and do a lot of things really well. We had to fight for everything.”

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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