Toledo shuts out NIU in the final 30 minutes to claim their third victory of the season.
After an explosive first half that saw the teams combine for 48 points and 651 total yards, the game slowed down in the second half and the Toledo Rockets were able to walk out of DeKalb with a 41-24 victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies.
The Rockets move to 3-2 on the season while the Huskies are 0-5 for the first time since 1998.
Toledo got on the board first when, midway through the first quarter, Rocket quarterback Carter Bradley found Danzel McKinley-Lewis for a 21-yard touchdown pass. But the Huskies would counter quickly and tie the game on a 28-yard Harrison Waylee scamper just two and a half minutes later.
Bowers would put the Huskies ahead at the start of the second quarter when he found Daniel Crawford open on the flat for a 5-yard TD reception.
But the Rockets wouldn’t be denied. After a muffed kickoff return left them starting at their own 2-yard line, the Rockets would drive 98 yards in just 10 plays to even the game up. The drive was capped with a 1-yard run up the middle by Bryant Koback.
In another seesaw battle, NIU would reclaim the lead just 90 seconds later when Bowers connected with Tyrice Richie on a 26-yard bomb to pull the Huskies ahead, 21-14. But Toledo only needed 71 seconds to tie the game again. This time it was Bryce Mitchell going 44 yards on a beautiful pass from Bradley.
Both the Rockets and Huskies would connect on field goal attempts of under 30-yards to finish the half tied at 24.
The third quarter saw no scoring but the Rockets were able to drive down to the Huskie 5-yard line and kick a go-ahead field goal with 11:31 remaining in the game.
After the Rocket defense stifled the Huskie offense, Toledo looked to put the game away midway through the final quarter. NIU would help the Rockets out early on in the drive with a roughing the passer penalty that gave Toledo the ball across midfield. Bradley would then find Ronnie Blackmon for a 15-yard touchdown strike to up the Rockets lead to 10 points, 34-24, with 4:48 remaining.
Bowers was sacked on first down and then had three straight incomplete passes to give Toledo the ball back just 40 seconds later. The Rockets then used their ground game to really put it out of reach for the Huskies, running it five times in a row. The fifth rush was the nail in the coffin, as Micah Kelly was able to find the edge and take it 25-yards for a touchdown; giving Toledo a 41-24 lead with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Huskies were able to get some yardage on their final drive, including a huge 44-yard pass to Mohamed Toure that put them in the redzone, but a 46-yard field goal attempt with 33 seconds remaining sailed wide left and the Rockets were able to run out the remaining time.
Toledo will be back in action next Saturday when they face Central Michigan. The Huskies will travel to Ypsilanti where they’ll look to win their final game of the season against the Eastern Michigan Eagles.