It was an unbelievable finish to an unbelievable game - one that made dreams come true.
The University of Toledo Rockets last night upset the No. 9-ranked University of Pittsburgh Panthers, 35-31, in Glass Bowl stadium - one of the greatest victories in UT football history.
As the final gun sounded, ecstatic fans swarmed UT's coaches and players. Moments later, the enthusiasm moved toward the stadium's north goal post, which soon was no longer upright.
“There's a lot of elation,” one fan remarked.
But no one was more elated than the Rockets themselves.
“This team came out wanting to win, and it was a whole team effort,” said Bruce Gradkowski, the Rockets' sophomore quarterback.
Tom Amstutz, UT's head coach, described the victory as “a wonderful feeling.”
“I'm a little numb right now,” he added.
Pittsburgh was the highest-ranked opponent ever to visit the Glass Bowl. The Panthers (2-1) were ranked No. 9 in the nation by the Associated Press entering the game. Toledo (3-1) was not ranked.
The game was played before a crowd of 31,711 - one of the largest ever to fill the stadium.
And they saw one heck of a game.
Mr. Gradkowski completed 49 of 62 passes for 461 yards. All three of those figures are school records.
In spite of all that, the Rockets never led until Mr. Gradkowski threw a touchdown pass to Lance Moore with just 43 seconds left.
Mr. Gradkowski previously said there would be extra motivation for the game.
As a result, the victory was especially sweet for him and a handful of teammates who are from western Pennsylvania and grew up watching Pittsburgh play.
“We have a bunch of Pittsburgh guys and Pennsylvania people, and I know they'll all be pumped up and ready to play this one,” Mr. Gradkowski told The Blade last week.
“We'll play just as hard as we do in any other game, but a lot of us will have more family and friends here; so that has to serve as some sort of additional motivation.”
Mr. Gradkowski said Pittsburgh showed some interest in him when he was in high school. “But it seemed like they were waiting for another guy to decide, so they didn't really recruit me hard.”
As for the goal post, it was carried by a bevy of fans with one atop the crossbar. It made its way triumphantly out of the stadium only to be unceremoniously plunked into the Ottawa River, which runs through the university's Bancroft Street campus.
Three female UT students fell and were stepped on while running on the field. They suffered a few bruises. UT police Chief John Dauer said there were no reports of “fighting or mayhem” right after the game.