Any late-arriving University of Toledo fans at the Glass Bowl last night were given a rude welcome.
Only five minutes had ticked off the game clock, and Western Michigan already led 20-0 over the Rockets.
From there the Broncos set the cruise control - albeit at the same frenetic pace - and rolled to a 58-26 rout in front of 18,029, capitalizing on several special teams miscues and foolish penalties and putting the hurt on the Rockets, literally.
UT senior quarterback Aaron Opelt was knocked out of the contest midway through the second quarter with a right (throwing) shoulder injury and did not return.
The extent of Opelt's injury was not known after the game, and he will be re-evaluated today.
"We're waiting to see tomorrow when the results [of an MRI] come back and we'll find out what's wrong," said Opelt, who was 6-of-15 passing for 80 yards before exiting.
"I'm praying for the best. That's what I always do. The way I'm looking at it, it's [going to be]
two days, three days. That's when I'm looking forward to being back."
In his absence, freshman Austin Dantin saw his first action of the season and completed 17 of 28 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns. He also fumbled twice, but recovered both loose balls.
"I thought Austin Dantin did a good job coming in here and running the offense," UT coach Tim Beckman said.
As inexperienced as Dantin looked, his counterpart was conversely just as polished. Western Michigan senior quarterback Tim Hiller was 16-of-26 passing for 270 yards and three first-half touchdowns.
Following a UT three-and-out, Hiller connected with receiver Jordan White for a 54-yard touchdown on the Broncos' first play from scrimmage just 1:09 into the game.
After another three-and-out from the Rockets, Hiller found White again, this time for a 19-yard score with 10:59 left in the first quarter.
"We started out kind of flat," UT safety Barry Church said. "But that's no excuse. We still shouldn't have given up 58 points. That's embarrassing and ridiculous."
The Rockets continued to produce lowlights on the ensuing kickoff when returner Kenny Veal was hit by Vernon Stewart and fumbled at his own 24-yard line. Kicker John Potter, who raced down field looking to make a tackle, ended up recovering the fumble.
Three plays later, the Broncos cashed in on running back Brandon West's 12-yard TD pass to Juan Nunez on what initially looked like a simple sweep right for a 20-0 lead with 9:54 left after Potter booted the extra-point attempt wide right.
"I don't think we matched their intensity from the opening kickoff," UT running back DaJuane Collins said. "In this conference, the team that starts off the fastest is predominately going to have the best game."
The Rockets finally cracked the scoring column in disappointing fashion with Alex Steigerwald's 21-yard field goal with 8:20 remaining in the quarter.
Despite having the ball on first-and-10 on the WMU 11, UT was unable to punch it in.
Western Michigan relinquished some of its momentum on its next drive after Hiller fumbled the ball away on his own 31-yard line,
but the Rockets again couldn't
take advantage because of penalties.
Opelt appeared to score on a 3-yard run, but the play was negated after Collins was flagged for an illegal shift.
On the next play, Opelt hit receiver Eric Page in the corner of the end zone on an 8-yard pass, but that too was taken away after UT receiver Stephen Williams was called for pass interference for picking a WMU defender.
The Rockets again would have to settle for a Steigerwald
field goal - a 40-yarder with 2:33 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Broncos answered with West's 15-yard TD run through a huge hole up the middle for a 27-6 lead 11 seconds into the second quarter.
Following yet another UT three-and-out, Hiller led the Broncos on a 71-yard drive and found Nunez for a three-yard TD pass on a fade route in the back left corner of the end zone with 12:03 to go in the half.
West's 6-yard TD run with 4:59 remaining in the second quarter capped Western Michigan's first half production, which saw the Broncos put up 322 yards of offense while possessing the ball for just 10:22.
WMU finished with 534 yards of offense and saw West rush for 153 yards on 14 carries with three TDs, including a 70-yard scamper to open the second half.
"I don't think we had them as prepared as they needed to be prepared," Beckman said. "Of course, you can see that in the final score."
Contact Zach Silka at: email@example.com.