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Published: Sunday, 10/3/2010

Rockets roped: Cowboys put a halt to UT comeback

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It took 105 minutes and 3 seconds of so-called football for the University of Toledo offense to register its first points of the season at the Glass Bowl.

It was too little, too late.

The Rockets trailed 20-2 before freshman running back David Fluellen scored on a five-yard run three seconds into the fourth quarter Saturday night against Wyoming, but the comeback attempt would fall short.

Junior running back Adonis Thomas added a one-yard TD plunge with 6:59 remaining, but the ensuing 2-point try failed and the Rockets couldn't muster any more points in a 20-15 loss to the Cowboys in front of a homecoming crowd of 20,843.

“I feel like if you asked half the guys on the team, no one even really realized it was homecoming. It was just another game for us,” said UT sophomore linebacker Danny Molls, who posted a game-high 17 tackles. “We just came out flat and started out slow. It was just one of those days, I guess.”

A three-game road winning streak had supposedly cured what ailed the Rockets (3-2) in a 41-2 season-opening loss to Arizona, but the same issues that plagued them against the Wildcats — turnovers, penalties, and poor execution — were present again last night against the Cowboys (2-3).

UT was penalized nine times for 71 yards, was 1-of-14 on third down conversions and trailed in time of possession 33:42-26:18.

“We just kept killing ourselves,” said Thomas, who carried 16 times for 94 yards. “The only team that beat us was us. It's frustrating, because we come out with intentions to kill when we go on the road.

“Then when we come home, I won't say our attitude changes, but there's a lot of emotions and everybody wants to get out there and make plays, and we end up fluttering and hurting ourselves.”

Wyoming jumped ahead 20-0 before UT's defense registered its second safety of the season with 41 seconds left in the third quarter. After redshirt freshman punter Vince Penza pinned the Cowboys at their own 1-yard line, junior defensive tackle Johnie Roberts and redshirt freshman defensive end Christian Smith swarmed running back Alvester Alexander in the end zone on second down.

Toledo's Dan Molls pressures Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. Toledo's Dan Molls pressures Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.
Enlarge

That gave the defense a season scoring total of four points, compared to zero from the offense.

“We took way too many penalties, and offensively we could never get in any type of rhythm,” UT coach Tim Beckman said. “And then defensively, the bottom line is keeping them out of the end zone, and we didn't do that.”

After the free kick after the safety, redshirt freshman quarterback Terrance Owens replaced sophomore Austin Dantin behind center, and the switch paid immediate dividends. Owens hit sophomore wide receiver Eric Page on a 53-yard pass down the right sideline on his second career pass attempt as time expired in the third quarter. Fluellen powered up the middle across the goal line on the next play to make it 20-9.

Owens finished 6-of-15 passing for 108 yards, while Dantin completed 8 of 20 passes for 76 yards.

Dantin was not made available to the media after the game, but Owens said he was prepared in case Dantin faltered. “Coach just told me to be ready,” Owens said, “so when my number was called, I was ready.”

Wyoming scored on its second possession of the game after a miscommunication between Dantin and center Kevin Kowalski, who snapped the ball when Dantin wasn't ready and it went skidding past him. Defensive end Gabe Knapton recovered at the UT 24-yard line, giving the Cowboys prime field position. They cashed in on Alexander's 13-yard TD burst at the 10:09 mark in the first quarter.

The Cowboys added to their lead in the second quarter after Penza's botched punt gave them the ball at the Rockets' 37-yard line. Wyoming scored on the very next play, a 37-yard reverse pass from David Leonard to Chris McNeill down the right sideline.

The trickery completely fooled the Rockets, who went with Alexander on what appeared to be a hand-off. He then pitched it to Leonard, who went deep to a wide-open McNeill.

“We want to be creative as we can and try to put our personnel in the best situation we can,” Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. “We just try to find a way to win games.”

Ian Watts knocked through a pair of field goals from 32 and 34 yards out to make it 20-0 in favor of the Cowboys, who were out-gained 374-266 by the Rockets.

“It's disappointing,” UT coach Tim Beckman said. “We were our own worst enemy.”

Contact Zach Silka at:zsilka@theblade.comor 419-724-6084.



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