“That’s a good team,” Miami linebacker Matt Salopek said. “They’ve got some really good players. Three touchdowns are too many.”
“We didn’t play well in the first half,” 10th-year Miami coach Chuck Martin said. “We didn’t play bad, but we were kind of on our heels. We weren’t as aggressive. We weren’t in a good place when we came off the field.”
The loss cost Miami more than the undisputed lead in the standings. Fifth-year junior quarterback Brett Gabbert left the field in an ambulance after suffering a right leg injury on a run to Toledo’s 2-yard line with 1:31 left in the third quarter. Gabbert was seen slamming his left palm on the turf in pain and frustration.
Players on both teams knelt as Gabbert was being treated on the field and then gathered around him as we placed on a gurney and carted off. He was transported to Mercy Fairfield.
“He’s a tremendous player, but he’s also a tremendous person,” Salopek said. “The first thing he said to coach Martin was, ‘Go win the game. Go win the MAC.’”
Gabbert finished 14-of-29 for 179 yards.
Running back Rashad Amos scored on a 2-yard run on the first play after Gabbert left to help cut Toledo’s lead to 21-17.
“I loved our resolve,” Martin said. “We didn’t get it done in the fourth quarter. We didn’t feel like we couldn’t beat this team.
Aveon Smith took over for Gabbert and went 3-of-7 for 23 yards before fumbling with 1:20 left in the game, giving Toledo the opportunity to clinch the win.
Toledo junior quarterback Dequan Finn went 16-of-28 for 160 yards and two touchdowns and 14 times for 34 yards and a score to lead the Rockets to their seventh straight win. Junior running back Peny Boone, the reigning MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week and conference’s leading rusher going into the game, carried the ball 17 times for 73 yards – 40 below his average.
“We knew we had to contain him,” Salopek said of Finn. “We wanted to make sure his five- and six-yard runs didn’t turn into 30- and 40-yard runs.”
Miami’s defense picked up its intensity after halftime and forced Toledo to punt seven times after the Rockets punted just once in the first half, but the RedHawks couldn’t capitalize enough to keep from slipping to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the MAC.
Coupled with Ohio’s 20-17 home win over Western Michigan, Miami (6-2, 3-1) slipped into a tie with the Bobcats for first place in the East.
Miami and Ohio are scheduled to square off next Saturday in a “Battle of the Bricks” rivalry game at Athens, Ohio. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
Toledo and Miami played for the first time since 2011 and the MAC defending-champion Rockets won in Oxford for the first time since 1992 while snapping the RedHawks win streak at six games – their longest since winning six straight to close out the 2016 season.
Toledo ran 39 plays to Miami’s 29 and outgained the RedHawks, 256-139, in total offense while building a 21-3 halftime lead. Finn went 13-of-16 for 147 yards and two touchdown and ran for a third to lead the Rockets in their overwhelming first half.
Along the way, Toledo put together touchdown drives of nine plays for 59 yards, 16 plays for 75 yards and eight plays for 84 yards. The Rockets closed that last drive with Finn’s 20-yard pass to junior tight end Anthony Torres with 1:47 left before halftime.
On the 16-play drive, they converted two fourth-down plays, including Finn’s 1-yard touchdown run with 8:36 left in the first half.
Junior kicker Graham Nicholson provided Miami’s only points on a 20-yard field goal with 12:26 left in the second quarter.
Miami needed just 1:55 on its first possession of the second half to score its first touchdown, going 38 yards to cut Toledo’s lead to 21-10 on junior running back Kenny Tracy’s 2-yard run with 10:13 left in the third quarter.
The RedHawks were mounting another drive on their next possession before Gabbert was intercepted by senior linebacker Dallas Gant at Toledo’s 26-yard line.
Miami at Ohio, 3:30 p.m., 980, 1450