That thud you heard was the University of Toledo football team.
Two weeks after starting the season 5-0 and being ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll and 23rd in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, the Rockets have come crashing back to Earth.
And just one week after suffering their first Mid-American Conference West Division loss at Ball State, the Rockets were fortunate to beat winless Navy 21-20 last night in a non-conference game before a Glass Bowl-record crowd announced at 36,852.
UT (6-1) won its 11th straight home game while Navy (0-7) dropped its ninth straight road contest.
The Midshipmen have dropped 17 of their past 18 games, yet battled the Rockets to the wire.
“They could have won this game, but they fell a little bit short,” said UT coach Tom Amstutz, a former Navy assistant.
Toledo, the most penalized team in the MAC, was flagged 10 times for 65 yards. And the Rockets fumbled a season-high five times, losing two.
“We have to get back to work and get back to the lab and clean up some of those procedure penalties, and the fumbles, and get better ball leverage,” Amstutz said. “Obviously, we didn't play a real polished game. But again, I thought our players battled hard and made the plays we needed to make to win the ballgame.”
Running back Chester Taylor, slowed in recent weeks by a sprained right ankle, had a career-high 38 carries for a season-high 195 yards and two touchdowns. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season and his first since Sept. 29 against Northern Illinois.
The two scores - a seven-yard run in the second quarter and a nine-yard scamper in the third - were his 14th and 15th rushing touchdowns of the season.
Taylor, who last scored a rushing TD in the first quarter of the Ohio game three weeks ago, had managed just 47 yards on 21 carries in his past four-plus quarters of work entering last night's game.
“I felt good tonight,” said Taylor, who needs 74 rushing yards to pass Wasean Tait and become UT's all-time leading rusher. “Our offensive line did a great job. We all knew we had a poor rushing game last week and a bad game overall.”
“Chester really ran the ball hard behind our offensive line, which battled hard and blocked well,” Amstutz said.
UT quarterback Tavares Bolden capitalized on a fumble by Navy's Marion Terrell to set up the game-winning score.
Bolden faked a handoff to tailback Taylor, who was going left, rolled back to the right and threw a 13-yard scoring strike to tight end Andrew Clarke just 1:40 into the fourth quarter.
“The balance of passing and rushing was very good tonight and it helped us flow throughout the game,” said Bolden, who hit 21 of 29 passes for 282 yards. “Our offensive line was really solid. We had good tempo and good pushing up front. It really helped us get the running game going.”
Navy narrowed Toledo's lead to one with 7:28 left when David Hills kicked his second field goal, a 30-yarder, but could get no closer. Two third-quarter fumbles helped sink Navy, which led 17-14 after three quarters.
“I think we were the better football team tonight, but we just couldn't get it done,” said Navy quarterback Brian Madden, who rushed for 138 yards and one score. “We let Toledo back in and beat ourselves. Until we do it on the scoreboard, nobody is going to take us serious.”
Navy's flexbone offense piled up a season-high 285 rushing yards against UT, which has surrendered 133 points in the past 19 quarters. The Rockets allowed just 456 rushing yards in the first six games.
“They run a good, tough scheme with their offense, which is tough to prepare for,” Amstutz said.
Toledo trailed 10-7 at halftime but struck quickly in the third quarter to grab a 14-10 lead. After Bolden hit a wide-open Donta Greene (8 catches for a career-high 117 yards) with a 57-yard pass over the middle, Taylor scored his second TD of the game.
But then Navy drove 77 yards on six plays to take a 17-14 lead on a double pass from Madden to receiver Chandler Sims, who lobbed a 34-yard scoring strike to Tony Lane, who had slipped behind free safety Andy Boyd (Whitmer) and cornerback Brandon Hefflin.
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