ATHENS, Ohio — The Rockets sure looked like a team with the top-ranked defense in the Mid-American Conference, specifically in the red zones.
The Ohio University football team churned out 30 first downs and 445 yards of total offense, but mustered only three field goals through three quarters of play Tuesday night while falling 35-23 to visiting Toledo in a MAC matchup at Peden Stadium.
The Bobcats (3-8, 3-4 MAC East) — playing in their final home game of the 2021 campaign — put up quite a fight early on in this Senior Night affair as the hosts forced the Rockets (6-5, 4-3 MAC West) into punts on each of their first three possessions.
After regaining the ball near the end of a scoreless first period, OU strung together a 10-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 34-yard Stephen Johnson field goal that gave the Green and White a 3-0 edge with 10:42 remaining in the half.
The Blue and Gold countered with back-to-back 6-play drives that resulted in Bryant Koback touchdown runs of eight and four yards, quickly allowing UT to establish a 14-3 cushion with 4:15 left in the second frame.
With just 65 seconds left in the half, Ohio managed to cover 39 yards in six plays before successfully adding a Johnson 41-yard field goal as the half expired — whittling the deficit down to a single possession at 14-6 as both teams headed into the break.
The Bobcats then took the opening drive of the second half and marched 61 yards in 15 plays, but ultimately had to settle for a Johnson 32-yard field goal on 4th-and-1 at the UT 14.
Johnson’s third straight successful field goal cut the lead down to 14-9 with 6:33 left in the third, but the hosts were ultimately never closer.
Koback added his third TD run — this time covering 55 yards — with 4:27 remaining in the third, then a quick 3-and-out by Ohio gave the Rockets the ball back just 48 seconds later.
UT needed only one play to cover 85 yards as Dequan Finn found Matt Landers with an 85-yard touchdown pass that increased the lead out to 28-9 with 3:28 left in the third canto.
Koback added his fourth and final touchdown run with a 13-yard scamper with 10:43 remaining in the contest, allowing the Rockets to build their largest lead of the night at 35-9.
The Bobcats added a pair of late scores in the final five minutes of regulation as Sieh Bangura scored on a 4-yard run and Chase Cokley hauled in a 14-yard TD pass from Kurtis Rourke to complete the final 12-point outcome.
The win allowed Toledo to snap a 2-game losing skid to the Bobcats, with the last matchup previously happening in 2017. UT also owns a 27-7-1 record in the alltime head-to-head series.
Ohio committed the game’s only turnover, but easily won the time of possession battle after maintaining the ball for 41:27 of the 60-minute affair. The Rockets also recorded all five sacks in the contest.
Both teams were also hit with double-digit penalties, with Toledo leading the way with a dozen flags for 128 yards. OU was penalized 10 times for 95 yards.
The Bobcats outgained UT by a 445-401 overall margin in total yards of offense, including a 253-150 edge through the air. The Rockets, however, did churn out 251 rushing yards on 31 attempts, an average of 8.1 yards per carry.
De’Montre Tuggle led Ohio with 64 rushing yards on 13 carries, while Rourke added 18 yards on 13 attempts while also completing 22-of-36 passes for 233 yards and a score.
The Bobcats had 10 different receivers catch at least one pass, with Tuggle and Isiah Cox both leading the way with four catches apiece for 33 and 65 yards respectively.
Tariq Drake paced the Bobcat defense with seven tackles. Johnson also missed a 25-yard field goal attempt with 13:56 remaining in regulation.
Bryant led UT with 203 rushing yards on 21 carries, while Finn added 28 yards on three totes while also going 10-of-14 passing for 150 yards and a score.
Koback and Devin Maddox each hauled in three passes for 19 and 17 yards, respectively, for Toledo.
Jonathan Jones paced the Rocket defense with 14 tackles. D’Andre Ragin had a team-high 1.5 sacks and Danzel McKinley-Lewis recovered a fourth quarter fumble that set up Bryant’s final scoring run of the night.
The Bobcats will wrap up the 2021 campaign on Friday, Nov. 26, when they travel to Doyt L. Perry Stadium to face Bowling Green in a MAC contest at noon.
© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.