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A week after making his collegiate debut in relief of an injured Aaron Opelt, freshman quarterback Austin Dantin made his first career start Saturday night for the University of Toledo.
The Tallahassee native showed no rookie jitters early on, throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tim Cortazzo with 6:28 left in the second quarter to spot the Rockets a 14-0 lead over Northern Illinois.
There was no doubt before the game that Dantin would be UT's starter, with Opelt standing idly by while his protege worked with the first-team offense.
Opelt was listed as questionable against the Huskies after suffering a bruised right (throwing) shoulder last week in a 58-26 loss to Western Michigan. While he had every intention of making it back for last night's contest, Opelt's shoulder had other plans for him.
Earlier in the week, UT coach Tim Beckman said Opelt was still experiencing pain while throwing and subsequently downgraded his playing status.
Dantin spent the week in practice preparing as if he would get the start against the Huskies, and his readiness showed. He completed his first four passes, including three consecutive throws of 10 yards or more, as the Rockets marched into opposing territory on their opening drive.
But Dantin's inexperience eventually showed when he fumbled on an option run to the right after being hit by NIU defensive end Brandon Bice at the 10-yard line. The ball was recovered by defensive end Jake Coffman.
Dantin didn't lose his composure, though, and helped the Rockets capitalize on great field position on their third possession.
Following Eric Page's 41-yard punt return to the NIU 32, Dantin looked downfield to receiver Stephen Williams in the end zone, drawing a pass interference penalty on Huskies safety Tracy Wilson in the process.
Running back DaJuane Collins then ripped off a 17-yard TD run to give UT a 7-0 lead with 0:44 remaining in the first quarter.
Dantin finished the first half 12-of-16 passing for 149 yards. He also rushed for 12 yards and was sacked once.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: The Rockets had a play late in the first half reviewed by instant replay and reversed in their favor.
While attempting to reach the ball over the goal line following a 10-yard pass from quarterback Chandler Harnish, NIU receiver Willie Clark fumbled the ball into the end zone after being hit by UT safety Lester Richmond.
A scramble for the football ensued, but the side judge declared that Clark had broken the plane of the end zone and signaled a touchdown for the Huskies.
The instant replay booth called for a second look and overturned the ruling on the field, saying Clark was down by contact short of the goal line.
NIU was able to put the six points back on the scoreboard on its next play, however, on Me'co Brown's one-yard plunge.
UT safety Barry Church then blocked the Huskies' extra-point attempt.
CAPTAINS NAMED: Senior defensive end Skylaar Constant, senior defensive tackle Maurice Hill, senior left guard Jared DeWalt, and freshman linebacker Danny Molls served as last night's team captains for UT.