YPSILANTI, Mich. — Anything you can do, I can do better, the University of Toledo’s football team seemed to be yelling at the other sideline.
No you can’t, Eastern Michigan retorted.
Yes, I can, the Rockets fired back.
A game within a game erupted Saturday in the third quarter of Toledo’s 52-47 road win, with both sides constantly one-upping the other in an explosion of offense that belied both the rain soaked surface at Rynearson Stadium and EMU’s dreadful offensive production entering the day.
Toledo won its sixth in a row, became bowl eligible, and retained its post atop the West division of the Mid-American Conference entering an anticipated meeting with Cincinnati. Now for the fun stuff.
Notes from an uncanny third quarter:
●The teams combined for 55 points and scored four touchdowns a piece. Go figure, winless EMU had been shut out in third quarter in its five other games.
●They combined for 769 all-purpose yards, with EMU running 17 offensive plays and gaining 338 yards, and Toledo running 16 and gaining 243. The Rockets’ total does not take into account Bernard Reedy’s 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
●The first five touchdowns were scored in a span of 1:51, and by only two players — EMU third-string running back Bronson Hill, who had TD runs in that sequence of 47, 58, and 70 yards, and Reedy, who packaged his kickoff return with a short catch he turned into a 65-yard score. It was his first of two TD catches in the quarter.
●Here are the yards, in order, on the eight touchdowns: 47, 89, 58, 65, 70, 60, 41, 59.
●Reedy broke Casey McBeth’s 18-year-old school record of 370 all-purpose yards in the frame. By the time his day was over, Reedy had amassed 407 yards, third most in MAC history.
The happenings of the 15 minutes after halftime can be described best in one word. “It was crazy,” said Rockets linebacker Dan Molls, who had an early interception and posted 18 tackles to bolster his national lead.
In the end, Toledo (6-1, 4-0) rolled up 655 yards of offense. EMU (0-6, 0-3) manufactured 624, which is 123 more than the team’s previous high under fourth-year coach Ron English.
Being slashed for huge yardage is not new to this year’s Toledo team, but the particulars — specifically, the opponent — raises concern. EMU had not eclipsed 20 points since the season opener and was ranked No. 119 in scoring heading into the game. Tackling was abysmal, and so too was coverage, but for the first time this year coach Matt Campbell found fault with the scheme.
“I just don’t think we were aligned correctly,” he said. “I think maybe that concerned me more than anything. I thought when we fixed that and kept it in front of us we had the ability to do some things.”
Added Molls: “A lot of it was schematics, guys misfitting. It wasn’t really anything we couldn’t control.”
The quarter began innocuously, with the Rockets advancing 37 yards before — this happened just once in the quarter — punting. Then commenced a game of tug-o-war between Bronson and Reedy.
Following Hill’s first TD, Reedy burst through a seem up the middle, broke an arm tackle by the kicker, and was gone. It was his second special teams TD in as many weeks, this one coming after a punt return against Central Michigan.
“Our defense, they’re good, but when we’re giving up points we have to lean on them and they have to lean on us,” Reedy said. “We have to keep scoring to stay ahead.”
After Hill scored for the second time, Reedy came in motion and snared a pass in the flat. He benefitted from a Cordale Scott block to race uncontested. Then Hill scored again, this time from 70 yards. It’s debatable which player had a finer day. Hill, a sophomore who had just 80 rushing yards on the season, gobbled up 283 and scored four times. Reedy snared 11 passes for 237 yards and added another TD of 59 yards for the final score of the quarter.
Of the record he set for all-purpose yards, Reedy responded: "That’s a good accomplishment. I never looked forward to it, but that’s great to hear."
Not to be forgotten in this display of madness is quarterback Terrance Owens, who threw for three TDs in the third quarter — including a 60-yard strike to Alonzo Russell — and established a career-high with 401 passing yards. He also scored a rushing touchdown. He was intercepted twice, once in the end zone with 12 seconds left in the first half.
As has been customary this season, Toledo did not secure the win until late. Hill’s seven-yard TD run with 1:57 to go cut the deficit to 52-47, and EMU forced a punt to get the ball back. The Eagles moved to their own 31 where Tyler Benz heaved a deep ball as time expired. Waiting at the 20 was safety Jermaine Robinson, who batted the attempt to the turf. The pass was incomplete, and so was the win.
“We had to keep bouncing back from series to series and we’re proud of our offense for putting us in better situations,” Molls said.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.