UT's Justin Olack goes high to catch a pass against Eastern Michigan's Willie Creear in Saturday night's game. The Rockets improved to 6-3, 4-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge
Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback rolled right and lobbed a pass high and down field into the waiting arms of his teammate.
His teammate from three seasons ago.
Cheatham Norrils, who played at St. John’s Jesuit with Roback, did his Titan brother wrong Saturday night.
And the University of Toledo did Eastern Michigan wrong, pulverizing the Mid-American Conference’s worst defense in a 55-16 thrashing before a bundled-up Glass Bowl crowd.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from the game
Six Rockets scored a touchdown — none of them named David Fluellen — as Toledo secured bowl eligibility with its sixth win and its fourth win in a row.
Vegas was on the money in calling this meeting between a MAC-have and a MAC-have not a mismatch. The 31-point spread was the widest in Toledo’s favor since the Rockets were 34½-point favorites against EMU in 2001.
“We still got little things to work on, but that’s a good start for November,” Norrils said.
Toledo freshman running back Kareem Hunt, making his first career start, ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night.
BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge
Toledo, in need of a breather following nailbiting wins the previous two weeks, scored points on eight of its first nine drives behind the reemergence of Terrance Owens’ deep ball and the one-two backfield punch of freshmen Kareem Hunt and Damion Jones-Moore.
Hunt, making his first start in place of the injured Fluellen, topped 100 yards for the third week in a row, rumbling for a career-high 168 yards. He scored twice, including on a 39-yard, pinball-like run in which Hunt bounced off multiple defenders to go up 35-3 before halftime.
Jones-Moore had the finest day of his fledgling career, carding 67 yards on the ground with 30 coming on a nifty TD run in the first quarter. The 5-foot-7 Pittsburgh native took the handoff and started left before cutting back to the middle.
His final move — a burst outside, to the right — freed him from an Eagles defense that entered the evening ranked last in the MAC in total defense, scoring defense, and run defense. This marked the fourth time in its past five games EMU allowed 50 or more points. The exception was a 42-14 loss at Buffalo.
Another freshman back, Marc Remy, scored UT’s final TD on a seven-yard run in the fourth.
Fluellen, who suffered a lower-leg injury last week at Bowling Green, stood on the sideline in street clothes. His availability for a key Nov. 12 home game with Buffalo is in the air, coach Matt Campbell said.
EMU’s season-long abyss grew only deeper against a UT offense whose scoring drives were both long — nine, 14, and 11 plays — and incredibly short. Two of Owens three TD passes came on the first play of a drive. He threw a dart in the first half to Dwight Macon at EMU’s 30 to begin a 47-yard catch-and-run before finding Justin Olack unattended along the sideline in the third quarter for an 80-yard strike.
“We basically gave what the defense was giving us,” Owens said. “They had a lot of Cover Two.”
Owens, who is officially removed from his early-season slump, was 18 of 24 for 375 yards before giving way to back up Logan Woodside late in the third quarter. Owens’ only mishap was a botched exchange with Jones-Moore that resulted in a first-half turnover in EMU territory.
Toledo (6-3, 4-1 MAC) did not punt until the final play of the third quarter, at which time Owens was removed from action. The 729 yards amassed by the Rockets rank third in school history.
“Our execution the last three or four weeks has gotten better and better and better,” Campbell said.
EMU (1-8, 0-5) played without running back Bronson Hill, who torched the Rockets for 283 yards and four touchdowns last year in UT’s 52-47 win in Ypsilanti. Hill entered the day ranked fifth in the MAC with 817 yards.
EMU, which dropped its eighth in a row, can take some solace in the play of its freshman quarterback.
Roback replaced starter Tyler Benz to begin the fourth series with EMU trailing 21-0. The four-star prospect — the only one in EMU’s history — got off to an fast start, firing a dart 25 yards to Dustin Creel. On the next play Roback, renowned around Toledo for his arm strength, lofted a soft pass down field that Norrils camped under for his first interception of the season.
“He’s like my little brother,” Norrils said. “I just try to make him better, and he makes me better when we get to play against each other.”
Roback otherwise played well, tossing the first two touchdown passes of his career to make a case to start Saturday in a winnable home game against Western Michigan. Roback’s first TD pass — a 16-yard dart to Creel at the corner of the end zone — closed the gap to 35-10 before halftime.
Roback had completions of 27, 29 and 45 yards and lofted a three-yard pass to an open Ryan Brumfield in the end zone early in the fourth.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.