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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2011

Rockets saw what it takes to be elite

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

It’s two down, one to go in the University of Toledo’s three week meat-grinder of a non-conference football schedule.

A word of warning to the Syracuse Orange — the Rockets are tired of nice tries, of coming close and having the cigar snatched away.

The visitors might be hard to handle next weekend in the Carrier Dome.

After taking Ohio State to the final horn last Saturday, UT acquitted itself pretty well Friday night against No. 4 Boise State before a sellout crowd at the Glass Bowl.

They never got a grip on Boise quarterback Kellen Moore, who had a whopping 298 yards and three touchdowns — and that was just in the first half.

When it ended, the Rockets were on the short end of a 40-15 score.

If you were among the 28,905 in the stadium, or if you were among a national television audience, you know there was a point in both halves when this game could have gone another direction.

Six days earlier, against the Buckeyes, Toledo and its fans walked away grousing that only a massive discrepancy in penalties prevented an historic win. Some Ohio State fans probably would not have argued the point. It was one of those coulda won, maybe shoulda won games.

Friday night never felt like a shoulda because it seemed like Moore was able to pretty much impose his will. But it was a coulda.

UT junior Cordale Scott had a sure touchdown pass zip – and we mean zip – right through his hands in full stride early in the second quarter with UT trailing 13-6.

The big crowd groaned.

Terrance Owens, UT’s quarterback at the time, threw what Bob Feller used to call a seed and it is possible, I guess, that Scott never saw it. Regardless, it was six points that never found their way onto the scoreboard.

Down 20-9 early in the third quarter, UT put together a nice drive behind Owens’ arm and Adonis Thomas’ feet and reached the Boise 11.

Owens got a little careless on an attempted screen pass that was tipped by Boise’s Shea McClellin and intercepted by tackle Chase Baker. A suddenly penalty-prone Rocket defense — as if Moore and his receivers needed any help — chipped in as the Broncos drove 89 yards for a 27-9 lead.

Moore surrendered a rare interception to UT’s Jermaine Robinson in the waning seconds of the third quarter and the Rocket safety bobbed and weaved 60 yards to the Boise 19 before being dragged down. Two plays later, UT quarterback Austin Dantin fumbled. At that point, the big crowd pretty much dismissed itself.

So, there were a few coulda’s.

As for shoulda, well, not really. Not with Moore putting together a Heisman highlight reel. He finished 32-of-42 for 455 yards and five touchdowns. What he didn’t accomplish with a surgeon’s touch, a splendid group of receivers did for him.

The precision and timing of Boise’s offense, which rolled up more than 600 total yards, is truly something to behold. The Broncos did it against a Toledo defense that was maybe a tad healthier than the one that held Ohio State to 301 yards of offense a week ago, well, feel free to make your own deductions.

Some had Boise State — which opened by soundly beating Georgia of the Southeastern Conference — on upset alert last night, maybe because of the UT-OSU score, maybe because it was on the road, maybe because of a possible letdown after the big win over Georgia, maybe because it’s fashionable to pick upsets.

The Broncos aren’t ranked No. 4 by mistake.

They are one of college football’s legitimate elite programs.

Many coaches who face Boise say their goal is to create a similar program. UT’s Tim Beckman paid homage in a similar fashion early in the week.

The reality is Boise State’s program is built to compete at the highest national level.

Toledo is built to compete at the mid-major level.

The divide is great.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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