ATHENS, Ohio - University of Toledo quarterback Tavares Bolden had never been involved in a shootout quite like this one.
“This is the craziest game I've ever played in, yet it's also probably my best game ever,” he said.
With star tailback Chester Taylor on the sideline for nearly 21/2 quarters with a sprained right ankle, Bolden took it upon himself to rally the 23rd-ranked Rockets to a 48-41 victory over winless Ohio last night before 21,918 fans at Peden Stadium.
Toledo trailed twice in the game, and the Rockets allowed OU to score 24 unanswered points for a 41-34 lead early in the fourth quarter before rallying for the victory.
Backup tailback Antwon McCray, who was subbing for Taylor, scored on an 11-yard run with 7:27 remaining to tie the game, then added the game-winner on a one-yard run with 1:32 left.
The Rockets (5-0, 3-0 MAC) beat cross-division foe Ohio (0-4, 0-2 MAC) for the eighth straight time while winning their 12th consecutive game. The 89 combined points tied for the most in school history; the Rockets beat Kent State 47-42 on Oct. 28, 1989.
“I give a lot of credit to our seniors,” UT coach Tom Amstutz said. “They showed a lot of guts and determination.”
That includes Bolden, who finished with a career-high 31 completions on 39 attempts for a career-high 387 yards and two touchdowns. He also has a 19-4 record since taking over as UT's starting quarterback.
“Tavares had a huge game for us,” said Taylor, who was injured midway through the second quarter and played only one series in the second half. “He knew when I went out he had to step it up. He did a great job of finding the open receivers.”
McCray had a career-high 23 carries for 72 yards, to go along with a career-high three touchdowns as the Rockets piled up 536 yards of total offense. McCray added five receptions for 59 yards.
“I knew I had to play well when Chester went down, even though I was only about 90 percent healthy,” said McCray, who has been slowed in recent weeks by a turf-toe injury and a pulled quad muscle. “Our offensive line did a great job. They should be out here talking to you, and not me. Without them, we wouldn't be anywhere.”
Bolden completed 18 of 20 passes for a season-high 258 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. However, it was his fumble that helped set up Ohio's go-ahead touchdown 3:08 into the second quarter.
Toledo then built a 34-17 lead at the 4:40 mark of the third quarter when Todd France, from Springfield High, kicked his second field goal, a season-long 45-yarder.
But OU ripped off the next 24 points to take a 41-34 lead on Joe Sherrill's short run with 10:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Toledo's run defense, which had been allowing 54.5 yards per game to rank fifth in the country, was roughed up for 194 yards rushing and four touchdowns by OU's triple-option offense.
The Bobcats entered the game as the top running team in the country, averaging 282.33 yards per game.
“Immediately after a game, you are thankful for the win,” said senior free safety Andy Boyd, from Whitmer High. “Come tomorrow, we have a lot of things to clean up on defense. It certainly wasn't a pretty win, but not all wins are pretty.
“When you play against an option offense, you have to execute your assignments. If one guy lets down, you can see what happens - the other team scores 24 unanswered points like Ohio did.”
Toledo scored on both of its possessions in the first quarter to build a 10-0 lead. France, 6-for-6 on field goals, booted a 42-yarder and then Taylor - who was held to 50 yards on 13 carries - gave the Rockets a 10-0 lead, scoring on a seven-yard run. It was Taylor's 15th touchdown this year, his 13th rushing.
OU used a bit of trickery and a key turnover to take a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter against Toledo, which had not trailed all season.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Bobcats lined up for a 30-yard field-goal attempt by Kevin Kerr. But after receiving the snap from center Brandon Swiger, holder Dave Zastuldi pitched the ball back to Chad Brinker, who picked up six yards and a first down by running around right end.
On the next play, Jamel Patterson scored on a seven-yard run for OU. Less than two minutes later, the Bobcats had the lead when Art Adams sacked Bolden for a nine-yard loss. Bolden fumbled, and Joe Sellers returned it eight yards for a touchdown.
Bolden, though, threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Holmes and a 43-yarder to Carl Ford, from Monroe High, and McCray scored on a one-yard run in the final 7:12 of the second quarter to give UT a 31-17 halftime lead.39.3285 -82.10444
University of Toledo quarterback Tavares Bolden took it upon himself to rally the 23rd-ranked Rockets to a 48-41 victory over winless Ohio.