UT’s Fluellen scores twice in game played in his hometown

10/28/2012
BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
David Fluellen wreaked havoc on the  UB Bulls defense rushing for 2 touchdowns on 228 yards rushing.
David Fluellen wreaked havoc on the UB Bulls defense rushing for 2 touchdowns on 228 yards rushing.

AMHERST, N.Y. — There is some­thing at­trac­tive about the Univer­sity of Toledo’s blem­ishes.

The Rock­ets can get vic­tim­ized for yards and yards on de­fense, lapse into a coma on of­fense, and fail on some­thing as rou­tine as kick­ing an ex­tra point. And they keep win­ning.

For two months the Rock­ets have shown signs of im­per­fec­tion, and for two months they’ve been per­fect in the only eval­u­a­tion that mat­ters. Satur­day’s 25-20 win at Buf­falo was per­haps as grue­some as any dur­ing this streak of eight in a row, but style points never mean much when you inch closer to a league ti­tle and a top 25 rank­ing.

Fac­ing a Buf­falo team that dropped its sixth straight, UT turned the ball over for a touch­down, punted seven times in the first half, and were vic­tim­ized for the first time by a rash of spe­cial teams mis­cues. A much ma­ligned de­fense earns a gold star, with Dan Molls scor­ing on a fum­ble re­cov­ery for Toledo’s only points of the first half, and Jay­rone El­li­ott forc­ing a fum­ble on a sack with 1:30 re­main­ing. That for­mula — a de­fen­sive TD early and a turn­over late — was the cat­a­lyst in last week’s win over then-ranked Cin­cin­nati.

“Don’t get me wrong, the last two weeks have been huge team wins, but it was just nice to have a lit­tle bit more on our shoul­ders to re­ally carry this team to vic­to­ries,” said Molls, who eluded quar­ter­back Alex Zor­dich on his was to a 13-yard TD in the first quar­ter.

Run­ning back David Fluel­len re­turned 10 min­utes from his home­town and en­ter­tained 65 or so of his friends and fam­ily with a thun­der­ous per­for­mance. In etch­ing his fifth straight 100-yard day and eclips­ing 1000 yards on the sea­son, the ju­nior from Lock­port has never been bet­ter. He posted ca­reer highs of 35 car­ries and 228 yards and scored on the first two drives af­ter half­time, the sec­ond com­ing on a 1-yard run that capped a drive in which he car­ried the ball on all four plays, to­tal­ing 84 yards.

“He’s ex­plo­sive,” Toledo coach Matt Camp­bell said. “I think one of the things that some­times peo­ple didn’t re­al­ize, es­pe­cially in Toledo the past two years, is just how ex­plo­sive he is. I’m not afraid to say this: He’s one of the best backs in the coun­try right now.”

Fluel­len’s im­pact af­ter the break was sorely needed. The Rock­ets (8-1, 5-0) had no an­swers in the first half, build­ing their streak of quar­ters with­out an of­fen­sive touch­down to seven. They con­verted just once on eight third-down tries, gained 115 yards, and Ter­rance Owens was in­ter­cepted twice. Cort­ney Lester re­turned one of those er­rant passes 23 yards for a TD, al­though Alonzo Rus­sell’s lazy ef­fort to catch the ball is as much to blame as Owens’ over­throw.

Trail­ing 14-7, Camp­bell said he didn’t con­sider re­plac­ing Owens with Austin Dantin.

“We talked at half­time about how we could equate the num­bers in the box,” Camp­bell said. “It seemed like early in the game [Buf­falo] did a great job of get­ting an ex­tra hat in the box.”

Those ad­just­ments aimed at spread­ing the de­fense net­ted touch­downs on the first three drives of the third quar­ter. Owens (12 of 25 for 171 yards) found Cordale Scott and Ber­nard Reedy across the mid­dle af­ter half­time for pick-ups of 21 yards to set up Fluel­len’s first TD run. On the next drive, Fluel­len ripped off runs of 17, 49, and 19 yards be­fore pow­er­ing in from the 1 to give Toledo its first lead, 19-14, at the 8:11 mark.

“It was like an old high school game with the weather and the straight run,” Fluel­len said. “We couldn’t pass a lot but we ex­e­cuted what the coaches de­signed for us.”

True fresh­man Alex Zmo­lik hauled in an 8-yard pass in the end zone for the fi­nal TD of the third-quar­ter, wid­en­ing the gap to 25-14. Kicker Jere­miah Det­mer, who had been per­fect on the sea­son, missed the ex­tra point af­ter all three scores. Two were blocked, and one he missed wide. Det­mer didn’t get to at­tempt a 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quar­ter af­ter Vince Penza failed to se­cure a high snap from Matt Wall. It was a rare se­ries of mis­haps for a three-part com­bi­na­tion that has been su­perb.

“I’m go­ing to look at it and see if there’s a sche­matic is­sue,” Camp­bell said. “I don’t think there is. I think it had more to do with the weather to­night.”

For the third straight week Toledo had to bat­tle the el­e­ments. Satur­day’s rain­fall never re­lented, mak­ing life mis­er­a­ble for the 2000 or so spec­ta­tors that turned out.

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