No. 23 Rockets Fall to Ball State, 34-27
TOLEDO - Despite another 200-yard rushing effort from junior running back David Fluellen, the No. 23 Toledo Rockets were toppled by Ball State, 34-27, at the Glass Bowl Tuesday night.
The loss snaps Toledo's eight-game winning streak and inevitably knocks the Rockets out of the Top 25. However, Toledo (8-2, 5-1 MAC) can still earn a share of the West Division crown and a trip to the Mid-American Conference Championship Game with wins over Northern Illinois and Akron in the next two weeks.
The game was tied, 27-27, with about six minutes to play when Toledo Head Coach Matt Campbell opted to pass up a 31-yard field to take the lead and instead went for the first down. Fluellen was stopped for no gain and Ball State (7-3, 4-2 MAC) took over on downs. Ball State then drove 86 yards, scoring on a 15-yard run by Jahwan Edwards with 1:43 to play. Toledo failed to gain a first down, clinching the win for the Cardinals.
Fluellen wound up with exactly 200 yards and one touchdown on 34 carries, his sixth-straight 100-yard game and third 200-yard game. Ball State countered with 280 passing yards and three TDs from junior Keith Wenning, though the Rockets picked him off three times.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a pair of long first-quarter drives. On the game's first possession, Wenning connected on 7-of-8 passes to drive BSU 82 yards in 11 plays. Following a Toledo punt, Wenning came right back and completed all five of his passes on an 87-yard drive that culminated with a 25-yard strike over the middle to Connor Ryan.
Toledo got on the scoreboard on a 24-yard TD pass from Owens to Reedy that capped an 86-yard drive with 1:30 left in the quarter. The Rockets then cut the lead to 14-10 on a 29-yard field goal by Jeremiah Detmer early in the second quarter. The Rockets were driving for another score when Fluellen fumbled and the Cardinals returned it to the UT 11-yard line. The Rockets' defense stiffened, forcing BSU to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Steven Schott with 4:13 left in the first half.
The Rockets knotted up the score just before intermission, 17-17, on a four-yard run by Cassius McDowell that finished off an 84-yard drive.
Ball State grabbed the lead on its first drive of the second half, going 61 yards in 10 plays. Jamill Smith snagged a three-yard Wenning pass to put BSU up, 24-17. Ball State had a chance to extend its lead but Schott's 35-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
Toledo had a chance to tie the score but had to settle for a 22-yard Detmer field goal when Reedy couldn't haul in a short pass from Owens in the end zone. But the Rockets got another chance when Dan Molls picked off a Wenning pass at the BSU 31-yard line and returned it to the 25. Faced with a fourth-and-one from the 16-yard line, UT Head Coach Matt Campbell decided to go for it. Fluellen made that decision pay off by barreling through the line and into the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Toledo its first lead of the game, 27-24.
Moments later, Ball State tied the game, 27-27, on a 30-yard field goal by Schott, setting the stage for the Cardinals' final push to victory.
The Rockets' next game will be a MAC West showdown with Northern Illinois (8-1, 6-0 MAC) in DeKalb on Wednesday, Nov. 14.