Chalk this up as a ho-hum victory coupled with three potentially significant losses.
The injury bug continued to bite the University of Toledo in its 54-16 victory over Eastern Michigan Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 22,909 at the Glass Bowl.
The Rockets (3-3, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) grabbed an early 21-0 lead and weren’t challenged the rest of the way, despite losing defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, safety Jermaine Robinson, and tight end Danny Noble to injuries.
Noble’s injury appears to be the most serious, with UT coach Tim Beckman saying afterward that he’ll be out indefinitely with a broken fibula in his right leg that he suffered while trying to make a catch in the red zone during the third quarter.
Fatinikun is day-to-day, according to Beckman, after dislocating his right elbow during the first quarter. Robinson also went to the locker room during the first quarter to have a cast placed on his right hand/wrist, but Beckman said he could have played if needed.
“It [says] a little bit about this football team and the depth that we’re trying to create here and why we play so many players,” Beckman said. “You never know when an injury might come about, so your [backups] better be ready when their time comes.”
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The Rockets were already without running back Adonis Thomas (broken arm) and middle linebacker Danny Molls (lower leg) and have been a veritable M.A.S.H. unit with several other key players missing time.
“We’re just trying to keep everything positive and keep moving forward,” said Taikwon Paige, who sat out all or part of three games with a hip/groin injury earlier in the season.
The Rockets were able to count numerous positives in their performance both offensively and defensively against Eastern Michigan (3-3, 1-1).
Wide receiver Eric Page became UT’s all-time leading receiver with his sixth catch of the game on the final play of the first quarter. He finished with 11 receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown and now has 235 catches in his career.
Quarterback Terrance Owens also set a school single-game record for accuracy, completing 13-of-14 passes (92.9 percent) for 146 yards and two touchdowns to surpass Bruce Gradkowski’s 92.0 completion percentage (23-of-25) set against Buffalo in 2003.
“It just boils down to practice,” Owens said of his record and the reason for the offense’s production. “We had a good [week of] practice, and it led onto the field.”
Austin Dantin started the game behind center for UT and wasn’t too shabby either. He was 14-of-16 passing for 156 yards and two touchdowns while sharing time with Owens.
“When our offense is at its best, it doesn’t matter who’s in there,” Dantin said. “It definitely helps when we have a big lead like that. We can do different things and see how things work. It definitely benefited us.”
It didn’t take long for the Rockets to build a significant advantage.
Dantin found running back Morgan Williams wide open out of the backfield for a 19-yard touchdown pass on UT’s second possession.
Owens then found wide receiver Bernard Reedy deep down the middle of the field on his second series in the second quarter for a 55-yard touchdown connection and a 14-0 lead. Shortly after that, Page took an 85-yard punt return to the house for a 21-0 advantage with 8:16 left in the first half.
Eastern Michigan finally got on the board with Kody Fulkerson’s 48-yard field goal with 3:37 left in the second quarter, and Alex Gillett followed with a 22-yard touchdown pass to wideout Thomas Kinsman at the 3:37 mark of the quarter to further cut into Toledo’s lead. But UT defensive lineman Danny Farr managed to block Fulkerson’s extra-point attempt, and cornerback Desmond Marrow scooped up the loose ball and returned it the other way for two points to make it 23-9 at the half.
The Rockets scored 24 unanswered points to open the second half and led 47-9 after Williams’ one-yard plunge with 13:59 to play.
“We still are trying to teach and learn that regardless of the circumstances to keep playing,” Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. “I think we get distracted enough that we don’t play with detail, and I think that game snow-balled on us.”
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.