A rare noon kick off at the Glass Bowl threatened to spill into the evening, with the University of Toledo unable to dislodge itself in a standoff with Navy.
Matt Campbell, Toledo’s coach, got on his headset to start the second overtime period. He discussed with his assistants going for two points if their next offensive series ended in a touchdown.
The outcome of the discussion?
“You’d like to know, wouldn’t you?” Campbell said, cracking a well-deserved smile on a day consisting primarily of torture.
A difficult choice became a no-brainer after Navy missed an extra point, opening the door for Toledo to claim a 45-44 victory in two overtimes.
A 20-yard touchdown pass from Terrance Owens to Bernard Reedy in the second overtime, coupled with Jeremiah Detmer’s extra point, closed a wild affair that produced 740 rushing yards, 89 points, a potentially-crippling injury to Toledo’s best player, and an unforgivable miss by Navy kicker Nick Sloan.
Sloan’s extra point attempt in the second OT sailed right, shifting his role to goat from hero after his 40-yard field goal tied the score at 31-31 to end regulation.
“I looked at the ref and he said no good,” defensive end Allen Covington said. “Let our offense go ahead and do what they do best.”
Two plays later Owens found his good buddy Reedy nestled behind the secondary, a connection not unlike a third-down conversion from the first overtime by the senior captains.
“I try to pride myself on being that guy in clutch time,” Reedy said.
The Rockets, who at 4-3 are above .500 for the first time, played most of the fourth quarter and both overtimes without star running back David Fluellen. Fluellen, who hurt his back after being twisted awkwardly with his legs pinned to the ground, will undergo tests today. His availability for Saturday’s rivalry game at Bowling Green is unknown but perhaps not imperative.
Freshmen backs Kareem Hunt and Damion Jones-Moore each ran for a score in Fluellen’s absence, buoying a rushing attack that traded blows with Navy’s punishing triple-option. Hunt (128 yards, two TDs) broke loose for 16 yards for a 10-point lead early in the fourth. Jones-Moore scored from one yard out in the first OT.
“The motto is next guy up,” guard Greg Mancz said. “Flu went down. They could have been nervous or scared because they’re freshmen but they weren’t.”
Fluellen, who finished with 153 yards for his sixth straight 100-yard performance, was able to walk after the game. His season rushing total is stalled at 999.
Campbell was incredulous in the aftermath of the play that ended Fluellen’s afternoon, motioning to officials that the hit delivered by linebacker Cody Peterson was at best unnecessary and at worst cheap.
“I felt like the guy was high on him,” Campbell said.
“I guess it wasn’t illegal because they didn’t call a penalty on it. A lot of it is how he got turned.”
Linebacker Trent Voss, who suffered an unidentified injury on the final series of regulation, will miss significant time, according to Campbell. Voss, who closed with 14 tackles and a sack, is one of the top playmakers on that side of the ball.
Look at the stat sheet and it’s confounding how the Rockets managed to come out on top of this tricky midseason test. Navy (3-3) scored on all eight of its red zone trips and rolled up 419 rushing yards — obliterating by 277 yards Toledo’s average before the day — and five scores on 93 carries.
Fullback Noah Copeland accounted for the yards (153) and quarterback Keenan Reynolds took care of the touchdowns (three).
On third down the Midshipmen were 11 of 21, converting twice in the first OT. On fourth down they made four of five, including in the second OT on Geoffrey Whiteside’s 6-yard TD.
“We didn’t really give up many cheap plays,” Campbell said, presenting a rosy picture of an otherwise ugly defensive performance. “We made them earn everything.”
Toledo scored just once in the first half, going ahead 10-7 on defensive end Jayrone Elliott’s 68-yard scoop-and-score. With that, the defense extended its impressive streak of games with a touchdown to four. Curiously, all of the TDs came on fumble recoveries and never an interception.
“Takeaways win games,” said Elliott, who had a sack among his 13 tackles.