For the second time in five seasons, an undefeated, nationally-ranked University of Toledo football team strutted into Ball State Stadium and laid an egg.
MUNCIE, Ind. - Forget about the polls and perhaps the bowls.
Corey Parchman's school-record-tying 100-yard kickoff return with 3:07 remaining yesterday capped a miserable day for UT's special teams while rallying the Cardinals to just their second win - a stunning 24-20 victory over No. 25 Toledo before a homecoming crowd of 21,278.
In 1997, former coach Gary Pinkel's UT team was 8-0 and ranked No. 18 and suffered a 35-3 thumping at the hands of a 4-6 Ball State team.
Yesterday's loss was the first for coach Tom Amstutz and snapped UT's 12-game winning streak. It also knocked the Rockets (5-1, 2-1 MAC West) out of the lead in the Mid-American Conference's West Division.
“Losing kills you,” linebacker Corey Morris said. “We are used to a winning tradition at Toledo. And when you put an `L' in the loss column, it eats away at you.
“I'm sick right now. This is my senior year and I really felt like we had a team good enough to win a championship. I just hope we can pull together and fight through this.”
“This is a big loss,” quarterback Tavares Bolden said. “It hurts a lot to lose. Coming into the season we had high expectations. Things like this happen. It's unfortunate it happened to us.
“But we didn't make the plays when we need to, and as a result, we got beat.”
Amstutz was an assistant under Pinkel the last time the Rockets got blitzed by Ball State. That loss was hard to digest, but yesterday's was even tougher now that he's the man in charge. UT was a 23-point favorite.
“This loss was different because the day before the 1997 game we received a trophy for the conference championship,” he said. “Our team just took a deep breath and then decided to take the day off then. This was a good, tough football game and we came up short.”
Although UT's special teams created a few big plays, yesterday was a day those units probably would just as soon forget.
“I thought special teams made the difference,” Amstutz said. “We got one or two plays out of our special teams, but you can't give up big plays like we did and expect to win.”
Parchman fielded Todd France's kickoff at the goal line and headed straight upfield. He bounced off UT's Adam Tedora at the 25, then spun outside and raced the final 75 yards untouched.
“I just wanted to make a play, change the momentum,” Parchman said. “Everybody did their job and I just busted out. Both of my contacts fell out when I ran into their guy. All I could see were yellow goal posts. I just ran for them.”
Nineteen seconds earlier, UT had taken a 20-17 lead - thanks to Paul Dye's blocked punt. France kicked his second field goal, an 18-yarder, on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1.
“There was some discussion about going for it on fourth down but we wanted to put points on the board,” Amstutz said.
“We didn't let them in the end zone and forced the field goal,” Ball State coach Bill Lynch said. “That one play gave us the win.”
UT's Brandon Hannum also had a punt blocked in the second quarter - his third official block of the season, although he has had a few others deflected - and Ball State (2-4, 2-0 MAC West) turned that into a touchdown and a 14-10 halftime lead.
The Rockets, the most penalized team in the MAC, were flagged 14 times for 139 yards.
Tailback Chester Taylor averaged just 1.4 yards per carry, gaining just 25 yards on 18 carries.
Taylor did throw his first career touchdown pass - an 11-yarder to Bolden - on a halfback option play early in the fourth quarter, but he did little else because of a sprained right ankle.