The Toledo Rockets won their third bowl game in five years tonight when they defeated the No. 23 Temple Owls in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl 35-17. Quarterback Phillip Ely threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns as Toledo’s stubborn defense shut down Temple’s running game and turned what initially looked like a defensive battle into a blowout by the final gun.
The game had the feeling of a low scoring contest from the get go, as Temple opened the scoring with a field goal and then botched a snap out of their own end zone for a Toledo safety. The Rockets then took the lead when Ely found Corey Thompson for a 26-yard touchdown that featured more broken tackles than one could count.
Another Rockets field goal made the halftime score 12-3, but the real fun happened in the fourth quarter. After Temple pulled within three points with two field goals to make the score 12-9, Ely found Cody Thompson for an eye-popping 80-yard touchdown to make the score 19-9, and Kareem Hunt later upped the lead on a one-yard touchdown run.
Temple got the ball back and scored on a two-yard run by Kip Patton, but then controversy struck when it appeared that Temple recovered an onside kick only for the officials to award the ball to Toledo. The possession stuck, and Kareem Hunt’s 41-yard run iced the game 32-17.
In terms of how Toledo beat such a tough defensive squad in Temple, the answer is simple. The Rockets simply wanted it more. Toledo used a balance attack on offense and took Temple’s run-first approach out of the game, limiting the Owls to just 99 yards of rushing offense.
Long story short, it seemed obvious that Ely told the team right after learning he was denied a sixth year of eligibility, “Guys, it’s my last game. Let’s go out, make it a good one and just have fun.”
And what fun Toledo had, putting up 435 yards of total offense. These two teams may have flown under the radar for most of the season, but one thing is certain. After tonight’s game, they’re going to get a lot more respect going forward.