Toledo waited 11 years to get back into the national rankings. In less than three days, the Rockets likely got knocked out.
Jahwan Edwards scored untouched on a 15-yard run around left end with 1:43 left to propel Ball State to a 34-27 victory over No. 23 Toledo on Tuesday night, ending the Rockets’ eight-game winning streak.
Edwards’ run capped an 86-yard drive after Ball State’s beleaguered defense had stopped the Rockets (8-2, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) a yard short on David Fluellen’s run on fourth-and-2 at the Cardinals 15.
Keith Wenning completed 29 of 42 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted three times for Ball State (7-3, 4-2).
Fluellen ran for at least 200 yards for the third game this season, carrying 34 times for 200 yards and a touchdown.
Toledo jumped into The Associated Press Top 25 this week for the first time since 2001.
Edwards finished with 105 yards on 16 carries.
The victory helps Ball State, which had already qualified for a bowl, get an even better postseason trip. The loss knocks Toledo out of a possible first-place tie with Northern Illinois in the MAC’s West Division.
Ball State held the Rockets for a three-and-out to open the second half and then promptly marched downfield with Wenning completing 6 of 9 passes, capped by a 3-yard scoring pass to Jamill Smith for their second TD connection of the game.
The Cardinals clearly made some changes on defense at halftime. Toledo mustered just six yards on their first eight plays of the second half, punting the ball away twice without a first down.
But then Owens carried the Rockets out of their problems. He scrambled for 12 yards on third-and-nine at his own 21 and then led them to a first down at the Ball State 7. The drive stalled there, however, and Jeremiah Detmer kicked a 22-yard field goal to cut the lead to 24-20.
On the next offensive play, Wenning was picked off for the third time – throwing behind a receiver with linebacker Dan Molls grabbing the interception. A sack and two runs left the Rockets facing a fourth-and-1 at the Cardinals 16 on the first play of the fourth quarter. With the defense crowding the line, Fluellen took a handoff and burst off the left side untouched for Toledo’s first lead of the game.
Ball State came right back with a time-consuming drive for Steven Schott’s second field goal to knot things – again – at 27 with 9:41 left.
All the offense wasn’t too surprising. After all, Ball State came in averaging 33.6 points and 473 yards a game, and the Rockets 34.3 points and 455 yards.
Toledo then drove to a fourth-and-2 at the Cardinals 15 with 6:02 left. First-year coach Matt Campbell passed up an almost certain 32-yard field goal with a good kicker. Instead, he went for it. Fluellen carried up the middle and was stacked up, running into the back of one of his own blockers before being snowed under by defenders. He came up a foot short.
With Edwards picking up good yardage on the ground and Wenning hitting timely passes, the Cardinals drove from their own 14. They converted a third-and-19 on Wenning’s 19-yard completion to Connor Ryan and later Wenning hooked up with Zane Fakes on a 4-yard gain on third-and-3 at the Toledo 19.
Two plays later, Edwards took a handoff and outraced one tackler at the edge to score the pivotal TD.
Terrance Owens was 14 of 27 for 215 yards with no interceptions and one touchdown for the Rockets.
Both teams moved the ball at will – and also made critical mistakes – while playing to a 17-17 deadlock at halftime.
The Cardinals scored on their first two possessions as Wenning filled the air with footballs. He hit on seven of eight passes for 71 yards on the opening drive before a sparse crowd at the Glass Bowl, hitting Smith on the 6-yard scoring strike to cap the drive.
After a Toledo punt, Wenning was right back at it again. Helped by a Toledo pass-interference penalty, he hit on all four of his passes, including a 25-yarder to Ryan for the touchdown at the end of an 87-yard sprint down the field for a 14-0 lead.
But the Rockets’ defense tightened. Over the last 19-plus minutes of the half, Wenning was just 5 for 10 with two interceptions – one on an underthrown ball picked off by cornerback Byron Best and the other on a ball that went off the hands of a receiver and was collected by Cheatham Norrils.
Meanwhile, the Rockets finally got their high-powered attack moving.
Blending passes by Owens and Fluellen’s darting, lighting-quick slashes through the line, the Rockets moved down the field. They covered 86 yards in just eight plays on their second possession, with Owens’ play-action fake freezing the defense before he lofted a perfect 24-yard strike to Bernard Reedy in the end zone behind defenders J.C. Wade and Quinton Cooper.
Detmer then converted his 12th consecutive field goal to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 14-10.
Driving midway through the second quarter, Fluellen was gobbling up big chunks of yardage when he took the ball on a sweep around right end, spun while being hit by cornerback Jason Pinkston, and coughed up the ball. Linebacker Tony Martin scooped up the ball and rumbled down the left sideline 54 yards before he was brought down. That set up a 24-yard field goal by Schott to push the lead back to seven points.
With Fluellen doing most of the work, the Rockets came right back to tie it. After a big hit on a 17-yard pass reception, Fluellen left the game briefly but the offense didn’t miss him. Cassius McDowell carried three times for gains of 20, 8 and 4 yards for the touchdown.
Toledo’s only previous loss came in its opener, a 24-17 setback in overtime at Arizona.
It was the 38th meeting in the series – an annual occurrence since 1975 – with Toledo now holding a 19-18-1 upper hand.