Adonis Thomas made his return to the field last night after sitting out the last four weeks with a broken left arm, but instead of bumping the University of Toledo's other running backs out of the mix, he joined forces with them to create a potent ground game.
Six UT rushers combined to record for 269 yards in the Rockets' 49-28 drubbing of Miami with a homecoming crowd of 25,910 on hand at the Glass Bowl.
The Rockets (5-3, 4-0 Mid-American Conference) totaled 176 yards on the ground in the first quarter, which saw them grab a 21-0 lead with three rushing touchdowns from three different backs, and were led by Morgan Williams with 84 yards on 17 carries in the contest. Thomas posted 80 yards on 10 carries, while David Fluellen chipped in with 66 yards on 10 carries.
As successful as Toledo's ground game was, Miami's was equally ineffective. The RedHawks posted 14 rushing yards on 21 carries.
"I'm proud of the way the guys came out and started the game," UT coach Tim Beckman said. "To be a champion you have to beat one, and I am proud of the way these seniors led this football team."
Linebacker Robert Bell added to Toledo's lead in the second quarter, making it 28-0 with his recovery and 55-yard dash to the end zone at the 11:58 mark following Miami quarterback Zac Dysert's fumble.
The RedHawks (2-5, 1-2) finally cracked the scoring column on fullback Justin Semmes' eight-yard touchdown pass from Dysert with 9:24 left in the second quarter.
The Rockets answered with running back Morgan Williams' second touchdown of the game from one-yard out on a direct snap with 5:44 remaining in the quarter.
After Dysert connected with Nick Harwell for a bubble screen that resulted in a 71-yard catch and run, Erik Finklea punched in a one-yard touchdown run with 49 seconds to play in the first half.
Fluellen opened the scoring 2:27 into the game with his seven-yard run and accounted for all 48 yards of the scoring drive with three rushes on UT's first possession. On his first carry, Fluellen broke four arm tackles on a run around the left side that went for 34 yards.
Williams got in on the action on UT's next possession. He bowled over Miami safety Pat Hinkel on a 37-yard run on the Rockets' second play of the series and later scored on a two-yard plunge at the 7:50 mark.
It was Thomas' turn on UT's third possession, and he released plenty of pent-up frustration from his time away on his first carry. Taking a hand-off from quarterback Terrance Owens, Thomas burst through a huge hole in the line and raced down the right sideline before taking a late hit out of bounds from Miami safety Anthony Kokal.
Three plays later, Thomas finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run through the left side of the line with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
"We can't spot a team like Toledo three touchdowns," Miami coach Don Treadwell said. "Then you're working uphill the rest of the day against a team that is explosive offensively but big and physical on defense."
The Rockets buried Miami in the fourth quarter with a 16-play, 93-yard scoring drive that took 6:53 off the clock, capped by Austin Dantin's nine-yard pass to tight end Jerome Jones in the end zone that put Toledo ahead 42-14 with 11:44 to play.
The RedHawks mounted a small comeback late when Dysert found Andy Cruse wide open in the end zone for a three-yard pass with 8:32 remaining and then recovered the ensuing onside kick. On the next play from scrimmage, UT cornerback Desmond Marrow snagged his second interception of the contest and ended all hopes for Miami.
UT tacked on another touchdown with 2:31 remaining when Owens hooked up with freshman wideout Justin Olack for a 10-yard reception in the end zone.
Miami responded with quarterback Austin Boucher's 25-yard pass to Willie Culpepper with 30 seconds left.
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.