Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Toledo Rockets: 2015 Boca Raton Bowl Champions



The Toledo Rockets won a sloppy, rain-soaked Boca Raton Bowl over the Temple Owls 32-17 Tuesday night. The result hinged in large part on an onside kick recovery. Down by just eight points and with less than three minutes remaining, Temple kicker Tyler Mayes apparently recovered an onside kick that would have given the Owls a chance to tie.

However, a Toledo defender came out of the pile with the ball, and the referee declined to overturn the call on the field, giving the Rockets possession and an eventual victory.

The onside controversy threatened to overshadow a stellar performance from Toledo senior quarterback Phillip Ely. Ely, who played his first two seasons at Alabama before transferring to Toledo and missed almost all of last season after a Week 2 knee injury, was making a homecoming of sorts: The Tampa prep product was playing for the first time in his home state of Florida. He finished his last collegiate game with 285 yards and two touchdowns on 20/28 passing. It was Ely's fourth consecutive game with more than 200 passing yards and seventh multiple-touchdown game this year. An 80-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Ely to wide receiver Cody Thompson gave the Rockets a ten-point lead, a lead which Toledo never relinquished. Ely froze the safeties with a play action fake, and Thompson beat his defender on a post route.

Running back Kareem Hunt converted a subsequent Temple interception into another touchdown. Temple scored its only touchdown of the game with less than three minutes left to play, but Toledo's onside kick recovery led to another Hunt touchdown run that cemented the Rockets' tenth victory of the season.

Toledo finishes its postseason with a new head coach, vacancies left to fill at offensive coordinator and two other positions, and a veteran quarterback graduating. But the Rockets also have their second consecutive bowl win and third bowl victory in the last six seasons. And a once-promising collegiate career shortened to a single season by transfer and injury came to a successful end.
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