ATHENS, Ohio — He was far from perfect, but he was effective when it mattered.
University of Toledo sophomore quarterback Austin Dantin capped a back-breaking drive by hitting junior wide receiver Kenny Stafford in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 13:48 remaining that proved to be the difference in a 20-13 victory over Ohio Saturday night at Peden Stadium.
Dantin was lifted in the second quarter after throwing interceptions on back-to-back possessions, but he was back on the field when it mattered most.
Starting with the ball on his own 16-yard line at the 6:35 mark in the third quarter, Dantin led the Rockets on a 14-play scoring drive that took 7:47 off the clock.
There was still plenty of time left for Ohio to answer, but UT's defense — a unit that had more holes than a fine mesh strainer last season — made a statement by keeping the Bobcats out of the end zone.
UT couldn't have asked for an easier route to its opening touchdown, which came courtesy of its defense. Sophomore linebacker Danny Molls picked off Jackson at the Ohio 30-yard line and nearly took it all the way to the house. Jackson managed to trip Molls up at the 5, and Molls' subsequent dive only got him to the 2-yard line.
Sophomore wildcat quarterback David Pasquale punched it in on second down from two yards out to give the Rockets a 7-0 lead with 9:16 left in the first quarter.
The Bobcats responded with a 49-yard field goal from Matt Weller with 3:04 remaining in the first, and Dantin's first interception of the game on the ensuing possession set up Ohio for its first touchdown.
While attempting to hit Eric Page on a crossing route at his own 39-yard line, Dantin was intercepted by Kyle Clinton, who batted the ball up in the air and then caught it for his first career interception.
Two plays later, Jackson bought himself some time by evading a few would-be tacklers in the pocket, then lofted a 35-yard TD pass to a wide open Riley Dunlop to give the Bobcats a 10-7 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
Dantin was picked off again on the Rockets' next possession at the start of the second quarter, although this time he slipped as he was lofting a pass down the right sideline that was intercepted by safety Donovan Fletcher at his own 22.
Senior Alex Pettee was behind center for UT's next possession, and he stayed in for another series before Dantin relieved him and scored on a two-yard run that gave the Rockets a 13-10 lead with 7:51 left before halftime after they botched the extra-point attempt.
Senior linebacker Archie Donald set up the Rockets' go-ahead score on Jackson's second interception. It was Donald's first interception in 24 games and gave UT the ball at the 5-yard line.
Ohio would tie UT at 13 on Weller's 23-yard field goal as time expired in the half, capping a 13-play, 70-yard drive that lasted 2:49. The Bobcats had a chance to go for a touchdown deep in UT territory, but poor clock management on the part of Jackson nullified that.
Turnovers continued to plague Ohio in the second half when LaVon Brazill muffed a punt return after UT went three-and-out on its first possession of the third quarter.
Adonis Thomas recovered the fumble at the Ohio 26, but the Rockets couldn't cash in as Ryan Casano's 40-yard kick from the left hash sailed wide left.
Casano missed again from 40 yards out on the left hash — this time wide right — with 10:10 remaining in the contest after Molls snagged his second interception.
The Rocket didn't end up needing the extra breathing room, though.
With fewer than three minutes remaining, Molls sacked Jackson on fourth down and all but ended the Bobcats' hopes at a comeback.
Casano missed from 31 yards out on the left hash with 23 seconds left, giving Ohio the ball at its own 24-yard line with no timeouts left. The drive ended up going 12 yards before the final whistle sounded.