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HomeSportsUT
Published: Friday, 9/1/2006

Rockets fall in 3-OT thriller

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo s Steve Odom breaks away from Iowa State s Caleb Berg after making a catch in last night s season opener.
Toledo s Steve Odom breaks away from Iowa State s Caleb Berg after making a catch in last night s season opener.
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AMES, Iowa The University of Toledo scored a pair of two-point conversions, one intentionally and one not, and the last of those forged a 23-23 tie with favored Iowa State with 3:17 to play last night.

But the Rockets came up short on a third two-point conversion, the one that is mandatory when a game reaches triple overtime, and dropped a marvelously exciting 45-43 game to the Cyclones of the Big 12 in the season opener for both teams before 42,531 fans at Jack Trice Stadium.

Clint Cochran, who completed 35 of 44 passes for 313 yards during regulation, orchestrated an 11-play, 71-yard drive that was capped by a three-yard run by Richard Davis. He then tossed a swing pass to tight end John Allen for the two-point conversion that tied it late in regulation.

Cochran then threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the first two overtime sessions. In the third OT, he survived a brutal late hit on a third-down pass. The nine-yard gain, plus the penalty yardage tacked on the end, set up Jalen Parmale for a touchdown run.

Iowa State had scored first in the third OT on a Bret Mayer touchdown pass and two-point conversion run, so the Rockets had to tack on two points for the game to continue.

In a slow-developing play, Cochran saw tight end Chris Hopkins, his main man all night long, perhaps a split second late in the right front corner of the end zone. The ball and standout ISU cornerback Chris Singleton arrived at the same instant and Hopkins couldn t hold on.

Cochran threw a 25-yard pass to Hopkins it was the tight end s third TD reception of the night for a one-play drive in the first overtime that matched a running touchdown by Iowa State quarterback Meyer and re-tied the game at 30-30. It was Meyer s third TD run of the night, all on quarterback draws.

UT struck first in the second overtime with Cochran throwing 22 yards to D.J. Nichols on the first play before scoring on a one-yard sneak. This time, it was Iowa State that found an answer on a stunning third-down, 29-yard pass from Meyer to Todd Blythe that was upheld after a replay review.

For awhile, it appeared the Rockets would not have a chance to play over several key errors.

With his team trailing 14-8 midway through the third quarter, UT s Nigel Morris blocked a punt after a bobbled snap by ISU s kicker that would have given the Rockets the ball near midfield.

But officials flagged Toledo for having 12 men on the field. The penalty, which was vehemently disputed by UT coach Tom Amstutz, did not give the Cyclones an automatic first down, but they successfully went for it on fourth-and-two and Meyer soon produced his second touchdown of the night on a quarterback draw play.

Iowa State went for two on the conversion play and completed the pass, but UT linebacker Steven Morrison wrapped up the receiver short of the goal line to hold the score at 20-8.

The Rockets answered smartly, driving 75 yards on 11 plays to pull within 20-15.

Cochran threw twice to Steve Odom to get the drive started, mixed in a couple nice runs by Jalen Parmele, absorbed a couple hard hits, and then went to his money man, tight end Chris Hopkins, for a 21-yard touchdown play with 1:24 left in the third quarter.

The pass was threaded perfectly to Hopkins, who bobbled it momentarily in traffic, then secured it in the end zone.

It was the tight end s second TD catch of the night and his sixth in UT s last three games, including 2005 season-ending wins over Bowling Green and Texas-El Paso. He finished the night with 12 catches for 114 yards.

Just 30 seconds after Hopkins TD catch, the Rockets thought Morrison had come up with another big play. A Meyer pass was tipped by backup free safety

Jeff Green and Morrison dived in a bid to make an interception inside the ISU 35. When the officials instead ruled it incomplete, Amstutz used his one replay challenge. The call was reviewed and not changed, costing UT its final time out of the half with more than a full quarter to play.

A 39-yard field goal by Bret Culbertson bumped the Cyclones lead to 23-15 three minutes into the fourth quarter.

On UT s subsequent possession, Hopkins was ruled to have fumbled while fighting for extra yardage after a reception. Amstutz felt he was down and that the ground had caused the fumble. When Iowa State s offense came onto the field, the Toledo coach remained on the field, standing next to the Cyclone wide receiver, before being escorted off by the line judge.

It was a heads-up play by Hopkins gave the Rockets an 8-7 lead late in the first half.

He hauled in a four-yard touchdown pass from Cochran to cap a 99-yard drive and pull the Rockets to within a point with 4:22 remaining in the second quarter.

The ensuing extra-point kick, low off the foot of freshman Alex Steigerwald, was blocked. An Iowa State player touched the ball, but did not pick it up, and Hopkins alertly scooped it off the ground and bulled into the end zone for a two-point conversion that put UT in the lead.

That 14-play push featured six completions to Hopkins worth 56 yards.

It also included a Cochran pass to Odom that extended the wide receiver s streak to 38 straight games with at least one catch. That s the longest streak in the nation. He finished with six catches for 71 yards.

UT didn t get away with any mistakes during Iowa State s subsequent drive.

The Rockets were assessed two major penalties and aCyclone score with 56 seconds left in the half made it 14-8 in favor of the home team.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398



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