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HomeSportsUT
Published: Sunday, 9/23/2012

Tough assignment

Rockets struggle to upend surprising Chanticleers

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
UT's Dan Molls hits Coastal Carolina's Tyrell Blanks causing an incomplete pass. UT's Dan Molls hits Coastal Carolina's Tyrell Blanks causing an incomplete pass.
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For $350,000, you can buy a whole bunch of fun stuff.

That amount, guaranteed to Coastal Carolina to travel west for an anticipated bloodletting, was nearly written off as a frivolous misuse of funds for the University of Toledo football team.

The Rockets won, and they move to 3-1 overall. Those two things were expected Saturday at the Glass Bowl. What came as a surprise is how hard, and how long, they had to work to finish the job.

PHOTO GALLERY: Rockets 38, Chanticleers 28

Coastal Carolina, a middling team from the Football Championship Subdivision, led the game at around the midway point of the third quarter before the Rockets' special teams wrested control and finalized a tough 38-28 triumph.

Toledo, perhaps weary from two road trips out west followed by a rivalry game, gave up too many big plays, punted too many times, and suffered too many injuries to be feeling good about itself entering a key matchup this week in Kalamazoo against Western Michigan.

"We were a little lackadaisical with our preparation this week, and it showed," center Zac Kerin said.

In five previous games against FBS opponents, Coastal Carolina (2-2) scored a grand total of 13 points and was shut out three times.

"I think we came out lazy," receiver Bernard Reedy said. "They kind of surprised us."

Injuries sustained by the Rockets were to running back David Fluellen and linebacker Robert Bell. Defensive tackle Elijah Jones left on a cart and came back, but limping. The injuries are not thought to be serious.

The game turned in the third quarter on two special teams plays -- one a break for the Rockets, another the product of a brazen decision. After Toledo forced a three-and-out, a mis-hit by punter Austin Cain gave the Rockets possession at CC's 40-yard line. Big gains by Cassius McDowell (24-yard run), Reedy (14-yard catch), and Alonzo Russell (18-yard catch) preceded an eight-yard TD scamper by quarterback Terrance Owens. Toledo led 24-21 with 7:38 left in the quarter.

Reedy, one of the few Rockets who will grade out well in film review, made a bold move that paid off. Earlier in the game the speedster reversed field on a punt return and was dropped for a loss of several yards. Undeterred, he tried it again and outran the entire Chanticleers coverage unit, racing 39 yards to the opposing 18. Two plays later, McDowell scurried around the left side of the line for a six-yard TD.

"We've been working on punt returns since last Sunday," Reedy said.

Reedy caught 10 passes for 122 yards and reinforced his uncanny rapport with Owens. The two hooked up for a 43-yard bomb in the first half for their 11th scoring hook up in the past two years. Average gain of those plays: 38 yards. That strike put Reedy, who had six catches in the first quarter, over 100 yards for the second time this season.

Owens was 27 of 36 for 290 yards and three TDs.

The main source of concern, as has been the case all season, was pass defense. For the fourth week in a row, the Rockets faced a formidable quarterback. Like the three times before, they had issues. Former South Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary became the third opposing passer to top 300 yards against the Rockets. He found DeMario Bennett -- another South Carolina defection -- for 28 yards to the 1 on the team's first drive, and Jermey Height scored the next play.

Hillary tossed touchdowns to Bennett (19 yards), tight end Thomas Pauciello (25), and Tyrell Blanks (17). The strike to Blanks cut Toledo's lead to 31-28 with 8:41 remaining.

Western Michigan's Alex Carder, perhaps the best quarterback in the Mid-American Conference, must be salivating looking at Toledo's porous secondary.

"A lot of it is adjusting to the new scheme and style," said linebacker Dan Molls, who posted a game-high 14 tackles.

An announced crowd of 19,023 -- it was much smaller -- finally could exhale when tight end Cordale Scott hauled in his second TD pass of the evening with 4:59 to go, pushing the lead to 38-28. Scott, a fifth-year senior, had never scored a college touchdown before Saturday. Putting Toledo in position to close the game was senior running back David Pasquale, who totaled 32 yards on the drive, often carrying several defenders.

Six Toledo drives ended in a punt, with Vince Penza averaging 46.5 yards.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.com.



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