Adonis Thomas made sure there wouldn’t be any clock mismanagement or defensive breakdowns costing the University of Toledo this time around.
The senior running back ripped off a 42-yard run with 5:21 remaining to put the Rockets ahead 63-49, and they held on for the 66-63 victory over Western Michigan on Tuesday night at the Glass Bowl.
Thomas rushed for 216 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns, while also making five catches for 77 yards.
The Rockets (6-4, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) totaled 804 yards of total offense in the win that gets them bowl eligible and keeps them tied with Northern Illinois atop the West Division standings, with the Huskies holding the tiebreaker after last week’s 63-60 victory here.
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The two teams also accounted for 129 points and 1,439 yards of offense, both MAC records, and Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder tied a conference record with seven touchdown passes, set in 1997 by Kent State’s Jose Davis.
The Broncos (5-5, 3-3) jumped ahead 14-0 in the first quarter when Carder found tight end Clark Mussman in the right corner of the end zone for the game’s first score at the 8:24 mark, then hit White for an 11-yard score with 5:53 left in the quarter. After catching the pass in the left flat, White sidestepped freshman cornerback Keith Suggs, then stiff-armed him to the ground before scampering across the goal line.
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The Rockets responded at the 3:12 mark on Terrance Owens’ 23-yard TD pass to tight end Jerome Jones, who was wide open deep down the middle of the field.
UT then took advantage of a pair of fumbles by White to hold a 21-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
After hauling in an 11-yard pass at midfield, White was hit by UT linebacker Robert Bell and fumbled, with linebacker Danny Molls making the recovery. Five plays later, UT running back Adonis Thomas made a one-handed catch over his head on a swing pass from Owens and took care of the rest by racing 40 yards to paydirt with 53 seconds left in the quarter.
On the second play of the Broncos’ ensuing possession, White was hit by UT safety Diauntae Morrow on a six-yard catch near the right sideline and spun around, and in the process White fumbled the ball.
Molls scooped up the loose ball and rambled 24 yards to the end zone with 14 seconds to play in the opening period.
Western Michigan followed with a defensive highlight of its own in the second quarter to tie the game at 21, when rover Doug Wiggins intercepted Owens on a pass intended to Stafford, who reached up for the overthrown ball and tipped it into the air for Wiggins.
Dantin entered the game on UT’s next possession, and he too threw an interception on a pass intended for Stafford, although this time Stafford was open but Dantin locked onto him and waited to long to throw the ball. That allowed Western Michigan safety Demetrius Pettway to step in front of Stafford and make the interception.
Three plays later, Carder got Suggs to bite on a pump fake and found Josh Schaffer streaking down the right sideline for a 64-yard TD pass with 7:06 left in the first half.
UT running back Morgan Williams sent the game into halftime tied at 28 with his 24-yard touchdown on a run around right end at the 4:22 mark.
Western Michigan again took the lead to open the second half with Carder’s eight-yard TD pass to Robert Arnheim, but UT rallied off three touchdowns after that to take a 49-35 lead late in the quarter. Thomas scored on a one-yard plunge, Fluellen followed with a two-yard TD run up the middle, and Owens found Bernard Reedy deep down the middle of the field for a 42-yard connection.
Carder wasn’t done, though, countering with a deep ball of his own to White for a 60-yard hookup that made it 49-42 at the end of three quarters. He later tied it at 49 on his one-yard sneak over center with 13:22 remaining.
Thomas’ three-yard touchdown run up the middle with 8:32 to play put the Rockets back in front 56-49.
Following Thomas’ second TD run, Carder zipped a pass to Chleb Ravenell on the goal line for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
The Rockets recovered Western Michigan’s ensuing onside kick, and Jeremiah Detmer booted a 39-yard field goal with 1:51 left.
Carder capped the scoring with a nine-yard TD toss to White with 1:01 remaining.
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.