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Rockets blast past Bowling Green, 52-36

In his first starting assignment at quarterback, sophomore Eli Peters threw for three touchdowns, and redshirt freshman running back Bryant Koback added three more scores on the ground as Toledo defeated archrival Bowling Green, 52-36, in the Battle of I-75 in its Homecoming game Saturday in the Glass Bowl.

It was the ninth consecutive victory for the Rockets over the Falcons, but it didn’t come easy. Toledo (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but was only up by three points, 31-28, going into the fourth quarter. However, the Rocket defense clamped down, and Koback scored all three of his touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to secure the win.

The Toledo Rockets retained possession of the I-75 Trophy, beating Bowling Green for the ninth straight time.

While Toledo had heroes on offense and defense, it was the special teams that may have played a decisive role in the win. A blocked punt by Reggie Gilliam in the first quarter set up his own TD catch moments later, sophomore punter Bailey Flint ran for a key first down on a fake punt, and the Rockets blocked a potential game-tying field goal at the end of the first half. The special teams factor could have been even greater by kickoff and punt return touchdowns by junior Diontae Johnson that were both called back for penalties.

Peters, filling in for the injured junior Mitchell Guadagni, completed 17 of 35 passes for 184 yards and three TDs. He did not throw an interception and was not sacked. Senior Cody Thompson was his top target, catching six passes for 78 yards and one TD. Sophomore Shakif Seymour led the running attack with 101 yards on 18 carries to complement Koback’s 90 yards and three scores.

Reggie Gilliam blocked a punt and then caught a touchdown pass to cash in on the BG turnover.

On the defensive side, Toledo broke up eight passes, led by three breakups from senior safety Josh Teachey.

Toledo scored on its first drive as Jameson Vest connected on a 39-yard field goal following a nine-play drive that stalled on the BG 22-yard line. The Falcons were forced to punt on their first possession and the Rockets made them pay when junior tight end Reggie Gilliam blocked the punt and Victor Williams recovered on the BGSU 22-yard line. Four plays later, Peters hit Gilliam for a four-yard score.

On the Falcons’ first play on their next possession, junior linebacker Jordan Fisher forced a fumble that was recovered by senior cornerback Ka’dar Hollman on the BG 34-yard line. Peters struck again, this time connecting with Diontae Johnson on a seven-yard TD to make the score 17-0 just eight minutes into the contest.

Bowling Green struck back on a 15-yard TD run by Andrew Clair, capping a 10-play, 86-yard drive to cut the lead to 17-7.

Senior Cody Thompson caught six passes for 78 yards and one touchdown.

Just two plays into the second quarter, the Falcons trimmed the lead to 17-14 on a 60-yard bolt by Clair down the middle of the field.

Toledo answered with a 12-play, 67-yard drive that was finished off by a one-yard run by Art Thompkins, putting the Rockets ahead 24-14 with 9:35 to play in the half.

Clair struck again on another big play, this time catching a short pass near the sideline then sprinting 61 yards for the TD to make the score 24-21.

BGSU had a chance to tie the game right before halftime, but a 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked by the middle of the Rockets’ line.

Toledo’s defense got off to a good start in the third quarter, forcing the Falcons to punt on a three-and-out on their opening possession of the half.

The offense followed that up with an impressive 12-play, 90-yard drive that resulted in a three-yard TD pass from Peters to Thompson.

Junior Diontae Johnson jumped over a Falcon defender.

Later in the quarter, the Falcons put together a 14-play, 84-yard drive to cut the lead to 31-28. Jarret Doege hit Quintin Morris for an eight-yard score to finish off the long drive.

Toledo missed a chance to extend the lead early in the fourth quarter when Vest’s 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.

But two possessions later, the Rockets used a short field to their advantage to add to their lead. Toledo needed just two plays to score — a 19-yard completion to Thompson and a seven-yard TD run by Koback, taking a 38-28 lead with 9:35 left in the game.

Toledo forced BG into a three-and-out, then came back to score again, this time on a five-yard run by Koback to up the lead to 45-28 with 5:08 left.

UT stopped BG on downs on the Falcons’ next possession, and Koback scored again from 21 yards out.

The Falcons tacked on a final score on a 42-yard bomb from Doege to Scott Miller, but the ensuing on-side kick was recovered by Nick Kovacs to clinch the win for UT.

The Rockets travel to Eastern Michigan next Saturday for a noon kickoff at Rynearson Stadium.