UT safety Jermaine Robinson had one of two fourth-quarter interceptions that the Rockets returned for touchdowns.
As Jermaine Robinson barreled toward the end zone to punctuate the University of Toledo's homecoming win, there was only one person moving fast enough to catch him: his coach.
After a sprinting Matt Campbell caught up to his senior safety, he applied a bear hug, lifting Robinson off of the ground to celebrate an interception return that put the finishing touch on an entertaining 50-35 triumph over Central Michigan.
After a first half littered with uncharacteristic turnovers left the Rockets in an uncomfortable spot, it was only appropriate the game tilted on two perfectly-timed takeaways created by the home team.
Pick-sixes in the fourth quarter by safety captains Mark Singer and Robinson are the biggest reason their team moved to 5-1 at the halfway point of the season and rests comfortably in pole position in the West division of the Mid-American Conference.
The Rockets, who lead Northern Illinois by half a game, scored on offense, defense, and on a 66-yard Bernard Reedy punt return after halftime to win their fifth straight in front of an announced Glass Bowl crowd of 19,247.
They did it in spite of being afflicted by the rule of three: They turned the ball over three times in the first half — matching their season total — all coming on their side of the 50; they were without three injured starters on the defensive line; and they settled for three field goals when touchdowns were needed to slice open the game.
"I really felt like in the second half of that football game our leadership of our football team took over," Campbell said. "I don't think there's any coincidence that the two big plays that were game-changers were [made by] two seniors."
Toledo safety Mark Singer, 43, center, celebrates his second interception in as many weeks for the Rockets.
Singer jumped an out route for his second interception in as many weeks and returned it 39 yards to expand Toledo's lead to 40-28 with 9:38 to go. A pre-snap audible, signaling for Singer to move into the box and assume the role of a linebacker, was key.
So too was CMU quarterback Ryan Radcliff throwing the ball directly to Singer.
"That always helps," the safety said.
Robinson's interception, his third of the year, averted a final-drive rally on the first play at CMU's 31.
Jeremiah Detmer had just made his third field goal of the game, of 31 yards, building the lead to eight and leaving open the possibility for a gut-wrenching finish.
That scenario never materialized.
Much like Singer's pick, Robinson didn't need to do much beyond maintaining his ground and ensuring he held onto the ball.
"He had to one-up me," Singer joked. "He always does."
Those interceptions smeared an otherwise stellar day by Radcliff. The former Fairview standout was 28 of 44 for 327 yards and connected for four scores with three different receivers.
CMU (2-3, 0-2) produced touchdowns on all four of its trips to the red zone.
Toledo also was without fail inside the 20, manufacturing points on all six visits.
Tired of his offense floundering and coughing up the ball, Campbell yanked quarterback Terrance Owens for a series in the second quarter, giving meaningful snaps to Austin Dantin for the first time since the opener.
The Dantin-led drive didn't net points, but his insertion seemed to grab the attention of Owens.
Owens, who threw an interception on the previous drive to snap his streak of 277 straight passes without one, returned with renewed confidence.
He completed all six of his passes before finalizing a 90-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown keeper. Only 13 seconds remained.
"I thought it was just huge for the confidence of the offense," Campbell said. "We kind of sputtered. We were trying to find a way to get some continuity."
Owens, who did not toss a TD pass for the second straight week, had two of his team's three rushing scores. David Fluellen, who cleared 100 yards for the third time, had the other.
In all, Toledo's 50 points were broken down as follows: Offense 21, special teams 16, defense 13 (the two-point conversion failed after Singer's TD).
The outcome is a power point Campbell can reference to drive home the importance of turnovers on either side of the ball.
"You can't turn the ball over and be successful," he said.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.
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