Toledo scores early knockout in battle of MAC heavyweights
PHILADELPHIA — After a controversial call against Toledo last week at Syracuse, Toledo decided to take manners in to their own hands against Temple. A week after a missed extra point was ruled good for Syracuse, Toledo decided to go for a two-point conversion on their first score of the game, moments after recovering a fumble on a punt deep in Temple’s own part of the field. The conversion put Toledo up 8-3 and the Rockets never looked back in a dominating 36-13 victory in Lincoln Financial Field.
“We played really well and the team will definitely be rewarded,” Toledo head coach Tim Beckman said afterward. “We always have cake and steak after a win. After all, we only have twelve games for this. The team is happy and I am happy.”
Temple cut the lead to two points in the first half with a Brandon McManus field goal making the score 15-13, but Toledo scored 21 straight points to build the 36-13 lead. With the Owls falling behind in the game and needing to catch up, the offensive strategy shifted in the second half. Toledo effectively took Pierce out of the game for the Owls, who did not give him a single carry in the fourth quarter, and only four rushing attempts in the second half.
On the other hand, Toledo running back Morgan Williams rushed for 121 yards and scored a touchdown on 20 carries and was the difference maker in the game. Where Toledo managed to limit the production of Pierce, Temple was unable to stop Williams when they needed. Williams put together 147 all-purpose yards and averaged 6.1 yards per rushing attempt against a Temple defense that had played very well throughout September.
Temple head coach Steve Addazio said after the game that turnovers were more fo a concern for the Owls. With both teams putting together fairly even numbers in total offense (Toledo out-gained Temple 318-305, Temple turned the ball over four times and Toledo took advantage of the opportunities. Temple quarterback Chester Stewart threw two interceptions. Temple’s special teams lost a football after a defender was pushed in to returner Matt Brown, and Toledo recovered at the Temple ten-yard line. Pierce came up with a great play that looked to change the momentum of the game in Temple’s favor, picking up 33 yards down the left sideline to put Temple in Toledo territory, but he fumbled the ball while being tackled to give the ball back to Toledo. The Rockets led 29-13 at that point in the third quarter.
Player of the Game
Toledo running back, Morgan Williams
In a game that was supposed to be a showcase for Temple’s back, it was Toledo’s Morgan Williams who emerged as the true difference maker in this one. Williams was able to run up the middle and drag tacklers for a few extra yards every now and then and his carries typically came at key points where the Temple defense just could not finish the job and get off the field. Williams also added 26 yards on three pass receptions.
Bernard Pierce Heisman Tracker
Temple running back Bernard Pierce was coming off a career game against Maryland last week. Needless to say, Toledo took notice.
Pierce was kept out of the endzone through three quarters and rarely was able to break loose and Temple found out routinely that running the ball to the outsides against the Rockets was virtually useless, even with Pierce doing the running as he had done so often earlier this season.
Eric Galko, Director of Scouting for Optimum Scouting, noticed that Pierce was unable to get much going against an agressive Toledo defense but still showed some reasons why he could play at the next level.
“His ability to run hard at tacklers yet attack them with good angles and balance is something that translates well to the NFL game,” Galko said. “His suddenness and balance as a runner allow him to break off tackles. He also keeps his eyes to the 2nd and 3rd level of the defense and has his eyes on the big play each play. His lack of pass catching ability and the way he carries the ball (had a fumble in this game) is an issue for NFL teams hoping to have him be a feature back. Still, Pierce’s outstanding quickness in the hole, balance and vision on the outside, and his ability to fight through tackles and get to his top speed show a potential NFL starting skill set to go along with his production so far this year. Don’t expect that this game will be the norm for Pierce this year, as this is the best defense he’ll play the rest of the way.”
Toledo returns home next week to play Eastern Michigan. With the Rockets back in the win column, they now look to be the team prepared to make a run through the MAC. Temple will look to get back in the win column next week when they take to the road for a game at Ball State. Moving forward, Temple will set their eyes on winning the MAC East, setting up a possible rematch with Toledo in the MAC Championship game later this season.