7:00 PM ET, November 23, 2004
Glass Bowl, TOLEDO, OH
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Toledo coach Tom Amstutz saw a locker room of long faces at halftime. It wasn't the first time this season his team was facing tough odds.
The Rockets, trailing 27-7 at the half to archrival Bowling Green, scored 35 straight points, hanging on for a 49-41 victory to put Toledo in the Mid-American Conference title game.
"The players' heads were down," Amstutz said. "I went in there with fire and told them I wasn't quitting."
Bruce Gradkowski threw for 338 yards and directed six second-half touchdown drives for Toledo.
The Rockets dominated the third quarter with 28 straight points. They didn't take the lead until Gradkowski threw his third touchdown pass, a 20-yard strike to Steve Odom with 2:20 left in the quarter.
Toledo (8-3, 7-1 MAC) will now play Miami of Ohio in the MAC title game at Ford Field in Detroit on Dec. 2. It will mark the fifth time the Rockets have played in the conference championship game since it began in 1997.
"This is not the first time we've faced adversity, but when you believe in each other and stay close great things can happen," Amstutz said.
The Rockets have had a remarkable turnaround this season after giving up 63 points in consecutive losses against Minnesota and Kansas to open the season.
Since then, they've won eight of nine games while piling up big numbers with their passing game and averaging 34 points.
Nothing went right for Bowling Green (8-3, 6-2 MAC) after halftime.
The Falcons (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today) were stopped on all three of their third-quarter possessions after scoring the first five times they had the ball.
Kicker Steve Suisham's 41-yard field goal try clanked off the left upright and it all came apart when Bowling Green receiver Steve Sanders was stripped of the ball on a short pass play.
"We let them hang around," said Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon.
Toledo's Tyree Pollard recovered it at the Falcons' 22, setting up Jalen Parmele's 5-yard touchdown run that put Toledo ahead 35-27 on the final play of the third quarter.
"We never stopped believing," Gradkowski said. "Twenty points isn't that much to us."
The victory over Bowling Green should be enough to secure a bowl bid for Toledo.
Only the winner of the league title game gets an automatic bid, but this year the MAC will have at least three bowl teams for the first time in league history.
The conference announced Tuesday it will send a team to the Silicon Valley Football Classic because the Pac-10 won't have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill its commitment.
Brandon said he still thinks his team deserves a bowl.
"There's a lot of teams in this country who would like to have eight wins," Brandon said.
It was sweet revenge for the Rockets who a year ago lost out on a trip to the MAC title game after falling 31-23 to their bitter rival in the final game.
The Rockets put the game away with an 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter, keeping it on the ground for all 11-plays.
Scooter McDougle scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 2-yard run. He finished with 112 yards.
Bowling Green jumped on top early with two touchdowns in just over three minutes of the first quarter.
Omar Jacobs threw a 34-yard scoring pass over the middle to Cole Magner, then Daniel Sayles recovered a fumble on the kickoff, giving Bowling Green the ball at the Toledo 18.
P.J. Pope scored on a 1-yard run two plays later.
Jacobs, who came into the game completing 69 percent of his passes, never looked sharp, short-hopping several throws.
"I couldn't grip the ball," he said, saying the balls felt too inflated.
He completed 36 of 60 passes for 415 yards and four touchdowns.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||10-19||4-11|
|4th Down Conversions||2-2||2-2|
|TD||13:24||COLE MAGNER 34 YD PASS FROM OMAR JACOBS (SHAUN SUISHAM KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 69 yards.
|TD||12:52||P.J. POPE 1 YD RUN (SHAUN SUISHAM KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 18 yards.
|FG||6:59||SHAUN SUISHAM 32 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 52 yards.
|TD||3:09||LANCE MOORE 20 YD PASS FROM BRUCE GRADKOWSKI (JASON ROBBINS KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 84 yards.
|TD||13:40||CHARLES SHARON 11 YD PASS FROM OMAR JACOBS (SHAUN SUISHAM KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 77 yards.
|FG||9:58||SHAUN SUISHAM 34 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 49 yards.
|TD||11:53||LANCE MOORE 37 YD PASS FROM BRUCE GRADKOWSKI (JASON ROBBINS KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||8:27||BRUCE GRADKOWSKI 1 YD RUN (JASON ROBBINS KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 51 yards.
|TD||2:20||STEVE ODOM 20 YD PASS FROM BRUCE GRADKOWSKI (JASON ROBBINS KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 76 yards.
|TD||0:00||JALEN PARMELE 5 YD RUN (JASON ROBBINS KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 22 yards.
|TD||6:13||SCOOTER MCDOUGLE 2 YD RUN (JASON ROBBINS KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||3:35||P.J. POPE 6 YD PASS FROM OMAR JACOBS (SHAUN SUISHAM KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 71 yards.
|TD||2:18||SCOOTER MCDOUGLE 31 YD RUN (JASON ROBBINS KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 46 yards.
|TD||1:13||P.J. POPE 5 YD PASS FROM OMAR JACOBS (SHAUN SUISHAM KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yards.