Posted on: December 28, 2011 8:20 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 8:20 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
TOLEDO WON. In what was one of the more entertaining bowl games of the season so far, the Toledo Rockets just edged out Air Force 42-41 at the Military Bowl in Washington D.C. As the score in this one indicates, there wasn't a whole lot of defense being played in this contest. In fact, there wasn't a score after the first 9 minutes of the first quarter, but then both teams combined for 35 points in the final 6 minutes of the opening frame.
Air Force actually outgained Toledo on offense, but the Rockets were able to score a touchdown in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens had a great game, completing 20 of his 25 passes for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. All three of those touchdowns were to Bernard Reedy, who had 4 receptions for 125 yards in the game. Adonis Thomas also rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown for the Rockets. Tim Jefferson led the way for the Air Force attack, with 225 total yards and 3 total touchdowns.
WHY TOLEDO WON. Honestly, there isn't really one specific area of the game that you can say Toledo outperformed Air Force. Yes, they had an interception return for a touchdown and a kick return for another score, but I'd say the deciding factor in this one was the fact that Toledo scored the first two touchdowns in this contest. After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter Air Force was playing from behind all game and never did manage to take a lead.
WHEN TOLEDO WON. It wasn't until the final moments. On a 4th and 2 at the Toledo 33-yard line, down 42-35, Air Force's Tim Jefferson found Zack Kauth wide open for a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 42-41. Air Force then sent its kicking team out, but instead of kicking the extra point, the Falcons ran a fake. One that was beautiful in design, but hideous in execution. The Falcons didn't convert, and then after Toledo recovered the onside kick it was just a matter of running out the clock.
WHAT TOLEDO WON. This was a nice finish to the season for Toledo, as it finishes 2011 with a 9-4 record and a win over a pretty good football team in Air Force. More importantly for the program, the Rockets didn't seem to lose a step after losing head coach Tim Beckman to Illinois earlier this winter. Matt Campbell also gets his first win as the program's head coach in his very first try.
WHAT AIR FORCE LOST. The Falcons lost a bowl game. That's it. They didn't get embarrassed either on the scoreboard or by a bad opponent. They were in this game until the closing seconds, and while it would no doubt have been nice to end the season with a victory, there's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of here.
THAT WAS CRAZY. This is going back to Air Force's two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game. I have no problem with the decision to go for two, as it's a bowl game, and you might as well play to win it. My problem was the fact that Air Force ran a fake kick. It's one of my biggest pet peeves in football. If you're going to go for two, then send your offense out there. Put the players that are used to running these types of plays in a position to win the game, not your kicker or holder. Kickers kick. They don't run the option.
FINAL GRADE: This game was excellent. It was a back and forth affair that didn't feature a lot of defense, but did have plenty of big plays and was a bit of a roller coaster ride. In other words, it kept you entertained for the entire three and a half hours it was played, and what more can you ask for from a bowl game in late December? GRADE: A
Posted on: December 27, 2010 3:59 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Florida International topped Toledo with a last-second field goal, capping a wild fourth quarter, 34-32.
Offense: It wasn't always easy to watch, especially with Wesley Carroll redefining inconsistency at quarterback. But T.Y. Hilton lived up to his considerable hype, playing a role in FIU's three consecutive second-half touchdowns (89-yard kickoff return TD, decoy on wildcat keeper TD, and TD reception) that gave the Golden Panthers their first lead of the game. Hilton was also the recepient of a hook-and-ladder on 4th and 17 on FIU's last drive, which helped set up the game-winning field goal. All in all, Carroll finished 16-27 for 140 yards, a score, and an interception, while Hilton contributed 210 all-purpose yards. Grade: B
Defense: FIU couldn't have completed its fourth-quarter comeback without forcing numerous turnovers, as it so did against Toledo. Toledo QB Terrance Owens was pressured into three second-half interceptions, and a blocked punt late in the fourth quarter nearly buried Toledo. And yet, Toledo was not buried, and the Rockets completed a late drive to take the lead, putting FIU under enormous pressure. It only set the stage for the dramatic final drive, of course, but still: FIU's defense didn't hold when it needed to the most. Grade: C
Coaching: Mario Cristobal did a fine job of not letting his players wilt, whether under the pressure of the program's first bowl game or of the 17-point deficit they found themselves in early in the second half. Some of that credit also goes to Hilton, of course, but Cristobal also did a great job getting the ball into Hilton's hands in a variety of ways -- including that late hook-and-ladder. I didn't agree with all of Cristobal's decisions over the course of the game, but all in all FIU at least stayed in position to win for the entire game, and that credit belongs to the coaches. Grade: B
Offense: Terrance Owens is something of an enigma at QB for the Rockets: wonderfully gifted in both athleticism and arm strength, but a liability in the pocket while under pressure. Owens' three second-half picks (most of which came with him standing still and a defender closing in) helped let the Golden Panthers back in the ballgame, and effectively negated the 304 yards of rushing the Rockets rolled up thanks to running back Adonis Thomas and company. Still, even with a -3 turnover ratio, the Rockets came thiiiiis close to winning the game, and the loss wasn't due to a failure on offense. Grade: B
Defense: During the time it took for Toledo gave up three straight touchdowns to relinquish the lead, the Rockets' defense only gave up 89 yards. Granted, that was still enough for the Golden Panthers' offense to get into the end zone twice, thanks to short fields, but there was also a three-and-out and a Myshan Veasley-Pettis interception in that mix too. And yet, we cannot endorse a defense that allows T.Y. Hilton -- the guy FIU has been trying to get the ball to all game long -- to take a hook-and-ladder for a first down on 4th and 17. How do you not see that one coming? Grade: B-
Coaching: It's hard to put this loss on Toledo head coach Tim Beckman ; after all, it's not as if he never thought to tell Owens to stop throwing passes off his back foot into triple coverage or told his players to ignore T.Y. Hilton. Just like with Cristobal, Beckman had his players in position to win for the entire game; the swings of chance on the field had more control over the final result than did any coaching decision on Beckman's part.
One decision, however, that seems to have backfired was the last two-point conversion. After Owens took in a keeper to bring Toledo within one point with 1:14 left in the game, Beckman decided to go for two points, a decision that seems to have been vindicated by the successful conversion by WR Eric Page . And yet, if Toledo kicks the extra point, this game probably goes to overtime; recall, if you will, that FIU's big play came on 4th down, a play that calls for a punt in a tie game and not an insane trick play. Indeed, by giving his team a one-point lead with 74 seconds left, Beckman essentially gave FIU a daunting but plausible challenge: get into field goal range with that 1:14 or lose the game. Thus, the wild ending. It seems wiser to go for two at the end of regulation only when there's not enough time for the other team to put together a decent-sized drive; 1:14, quite demonstrably, was enough such time. Grade: C
It would be downright ungrateful to give anything less than a stellar grade to a game that features 66 points, five fourth-down attempts, and three lead changes in the last 7:34 -- including two in the last 75 seconds. Sure, the first half was a snoozer, and the turnovers were more the product of poor decision-making than some brilliant defensive work, but this is the type of 60-minute insanity we'd been hoping for all bowl season long. If this is the best bowl of the year, we're all in trouble, but it's at least the best so far. Grade: B+/A-
Posted on: December 16, 2010 10:49 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Why You Should Watch: The easy answer is that if you want to wash down your day-after-Christmas leftovers with college football, the Golden Panthers of FIU and Rockets of Toledo are your only option. So you'll watch them in front of a three-quarters empty Ford Field and like it, buster. But given the dramatic steps forward taken by these two programs under their current coaches -- Mario Cristobal, in his fourth year and first bowl game at FIU, and Tim Beckman, in his second year in Toledo -- this is also a chance to say you saw them before they got hired away by some wealthier school.
Also: electric FIU receiver/returner/jack-of-all-trade
s T.Y. Hilton is, to use the technical term, totally sweet.
Keys to Victory for FIU: Statistically, the Panthers are one of those teams that do just about everything well rather than any one thing really well. They did finish first in the Sun Belt in rushing, total and scoring defense, though (and second in pass defense), boasting a senior first-team all-conference performer in the line (end Jarvis Wilson, team leader in both sacks and tackles-for-loss), linebackers (Toronto Smith) and secondary (corner Anthony Gaitor). And still, for all of that, it was the Panther offense that led the way to the Sun Belt title. Behind conference Player of the Year Hilton and his 1,094 yards-from-scrimmage, and the tailback tandem of Darriet Perry and Darrian Mallary (1,376 combined yards, Mallary 5.67 yards per-carry), FIU scored an average of 37.5 points in their six conference wins.
In a game that looks as even on paper as this one, big plays could prove the difference, and n players like Hilton, Mallary, and Wilson, they have the athletes that can make them. If they do, and quarterback Wesley Carroll can avoid making big plays for Toledo (he threw 13 interceptions this season), FIU should have the edge.
Keys to Victory for Toledo: Unlike the Panthers, there's no question on which side of the ball the Rockets' bread is buttered; there's a solid linebacking tandem here in senior Archie Donald and sophomore Dan Molls (267 combined tackles), but when you've finished seventh in the MAC in total defense, even with nonconference games factored out , defense is not your strength.
What is the Rockets' strength is a balanced offense that doesn't beat itself. With original starter Austin Dantin out with a separated shoulder (whether he'll be available for the bowl is unclear), freshman Terrance Owens took over down the stretch and led the Rockets to a 3-1 record with an 11-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Taking handoffs will be second-team All-MAC tailback Adonis Thomas, who totaled 905 yards and averaged an impressive 5.99 yards per attempt. But the unquestioned star of the Rocket attack is receiver Eric Page, named first team all-conference after racking up 1,081 yards and eight scores.
Page was also named the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year after returning three kickoffs for touchdowns. (Between Page and Hilton, you'll really want to watch kickoffs in this game.) His good work and the sticky fingers of the Rocket defense (their 19 interceptions tied for fifth in the country) could tilt the field position battle in Toledo's favor, and if they do, the Owens-Thomas-Page triplets are good enough to take advantage. They'll have to, to keep up with the yards and points the defense will likely concede.
The Little Caesar's Bowl is like: a fireworks show. Maybe Toledo vs. FIU looks about as interesting as a blank black sky, but with guys like Hilton and Page around and a defense as boom-or-bust as the turnover-dependent Rockets involved, if you watch long enough you're sure to see some thrilling explosions.