Toledo's Diontae Johnson scores the first Rockets touchdown in the first half against Miami during the football game at the University of Toledo's Glass Bowl in Toledo.
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The University of Toledo football team dug itself a big early hole against No. 21 Miami on Saturday, but still stood toe-to-toe with the Hurricanes in the third quarter, much like last season’s matchup between the teams.
And much like last season, Miami’s top-tier talent won out in the end.
After Toledo twice pulled within a score in the third quarter, the Hurricanes made the plays necessary to come away with a 49-24 win in front of a sold-out Toledo crowd at the Glass Bowl in a marquee matchup.
Last season in Miami, Toledo led 16-10 at halftime before losing 52-30.
On Saturday, Miami quarterback Malik Rosier accounted for three touchdowns in the first half — on a 5-yard run, a 38-yard pass to Jeff Thomas, and a 2-yard run — and the Hurricanes took a 21-0 lead with 2:36 left until halftime.
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Toledo — which missed a field goal and was stopped on a fourth-down try in the first half — got a big lift by scoring a touchdown with 37 seconds left in the half on a 7-yard TD pass from Mitch Guadagni to Diontae Johnson.
“I think you saw a little bit of a stagnant start because we are playing a quality opponent and some new players are in situations that they haven’t been in before,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “From what I saw at halftime, the stats were about dead even. Third down, both teams were just okay. Both teams had about the same number of completions and about the same number of rushes and rush yards. It was kind of a dead-even deal, but the score was one-sided.”
The Rockets built off that late first-half score and got their offense rolling in the third quarter. Art Thompkins scored on a 5-yard run to cap off a seven-play, 81-yard drive on Toledo’s first possession of the second half to cut the lead to 21-14.
On its next possession, Miami answered with a 19-yard TD run from DeeJay Dallas that stretched the lead back to 28-14.
Toledo responded immediately on the ensuing drive with a 40-yard TD strike from Guadagni to Johnson, and the Rockets were back to 28-21 with 7:39 left in the third.
“I think we found a good rhythm, especially right after halftime,” Guadagni said. “We got together with the coaches and identified what Miami was doing on defense and we tried to find things we could exploit.”
Toledo's Richard Olekanma celebrates after making a tackle against Miami Saturday at the Glass Bowl.
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With the crowd back into the game, Miami converted a third-and-1, a third-and-9, a fourth-and-2, and a third-and-7 on the next drive that finished with a 5-yard TD pass from Rosier to Lawrence Cager, and it was back to 35-21.
“We just battled and were trying to win a game,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “The same thing happened a year ago when our lead was cut to eight. We knew we had to answer their touchdowns just like last year.”
UT kicker Jameson Vest made a 47-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Then a Guadagni interception was sandwiched between rushing touchdowns from Rosier and Trayone Gray as the Hurricanes finished the game with 14 unanswered points.
Miami was 4-of-6 on third-down conversions in the third quarter and 7-of-15 in the game. The inability for Toledo’s defense to get off the field was a huge factor in the game.
“It’s frustrating because as a defense that is your overall goal,” UT senior defensive end Tuzar Skipper said. “When third down comes it’s the heartbeat and it’s time to make a play. It got frustrating, but we didn’t hang our heads and we kept fighting.”
Toledo also had trouble in third-down situations on offense, converting just 2-of-11 in the game.
“That’s a tremendous third-down team,” Candle said. “You get into third-and-long situations and they are going to bring in more speed and play you man-to-man and try to lock down and play some coverage on your guys. Your guys have to shake free versus a tremendous pass rush. That makes it difficult.”
Guadagni finished the game 13-of-21 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns and was the team’s leading rusher with 15 carries for 47 yards. Johnson caught six passes for 119 yards and two scores.
Rosier led Miami with 205 passing yards and two TDs along with eight rushes for 80 yards and three scores. Dallas rushed for 110 yards and a TD and Thomas hauled in five catches for 105 yards and a TD.
Toledo will look to bounce back with a home game next Saturday against Nevada.
“At times we were really rolling and everyone was doing their jobs,” Johnson said. “We just need to take care of the mistakes we made in the second half and get ready for next week.”
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