Senior quarterback Brian Jones had no trouble picking apart Ball State's porous defense last night.
And because of Jones' precision passing, the University of Toledo tied a school record with its 17th straight home win, a 37-17 victory over the Cardinals before 25,926 fans in the Glass Bowl.
Jones completed his first 15 passes and finished 21-for-26 for 258 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a score as the defending Mid-American Conference champion Rockets (4-2, 2-0) equaled the school record of 17 consecutive wins at home, set from 1969-72.
Toledo also has the third-longest home winning streak in Division I-A, ranking only behind Nebraska (26) and Miami (20).
“I felt real comfortable out there,” Jones said. “It was good to play in front of a pumped-up crowd. We were really clicking on offense, especially with the passing game. It felt great.”
Jones didn't throw an incompletion until there was 1:09 left in the second quarter. He recovered quickly and completed 80.8 percent of his passes for the game, tying for the fifth-best total in school history.
He has hit on 71.1 percent (106 of 149) through six games, with just one interception. The MAC record for completion percentage in a season is 68.7 percent, set last year by the man Jones replaced - Tavares Bolden.
“I thought Bolden was a great player,” Ball State coach Bill Lynch said. “But I said a couple of times on the headset during the game that this quarterback is in total control of the game. Brian Jones is a good football player.”
Jones opened the game by scoring on a one-yard run on the Rockets' first series. It marked the fifth time in six games UT's offense has scored on its opening drive.
Jones then tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lance Moore as Toledo built a 14-0 lead after one quarter on Homecoming.
He came back with a four-yard scoring pass to tight end Andrew Clarke late in the second quarter, after Clarke had fumbled on the previous series. It staked Toledo to a 21-7 halftime lead.
“I'm glad Brian came right back to me and didn't give up on me after the fumble,” said Clarke, who caught a career-high six passes for 59 yards.
“I'm really excited with the play of Brian Jones, from his leadership, to his control, to his command of the football team,” UT coach Tom Amstutz said. “He puts the ball on target and handles himself like a winner out there.”
Jones, who also finished as the Rockets' second-leading rusher with 58 yards on six carries, tossed a 59-yard strike to Carl Ford (Monroe) on a screen pass 11 seconds into the final quarter as Toledo finished with 518 yards of offense and beat Ball State (2-4, 0-2) for the fourth straight time at home.
“After last year when people saw [Brian] play against Bowling Green [in his first career start], I think they were kind of skeptical about what he could do this year,” Clarke said. “He has come out and surprised everybody - players, coaches and fans.
“He is on top of everything.”
Freshman tailback Astin Martin also scored a touchdown on a seven-yard run in the third quarter and kicker Jason Robbins (Southview) added a 27-yard field goal for UT, which avenged last year's four-point loss to the Cardinals in Muncie, Ind.
Toledo, which is 6-1-1 against Ball State in the Glass Bowl since 1987, hasn't lost at home since suffering a 34-17 setback to Louisiana Tech on Oct. 30, 1999.
For the first time in 24 games, Ball State quarterback Talmadge Hill found himself on the bench and not in the starting lineup. He was replaced by fellow junior Andy Roesch, who was making his first start despite completing just three of six passes in his career.
Roesch completed 18 of 32 passes for 182 yards with one interception.
His one-yard run with 15 seconds left in the third quarter pulled Ball State to within 28-17, but the Cardinals would get no closer.
“They out-played us all night,” Lynch said. “They're a great football team.”
Next up for the Rockets is a road game at Central Florida (2-3, 1-1) next Saturday.
Toledo has dropped four of its last five road games.
“Next week will be one of our toughest games of the season,” Jones said. “We have to be ready for UCF and show them what we can do.”