Toledo tight end Michael Roberts helped the Rockets topple No. 24 Temple on Saturday.
Robert Duyos/Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports
BOCA RATON, Fla. — The Boca Raton Bowl trophy ceremony ended in heavy rain, and Toledo coach Jason Candle walked off the field soaking wet, declining the offer of a towel with a grin.
"Towels aren’t going to do me much good now," Candle said.
Soggy weather couldn’t dampen the celebratory mood for the Rockets, who won Candle’s first game as head coach Tuesday night, beating No. 24 Temple 32-17.
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Phillip Ely threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder to Cody Thompson.
Candle called plays from the press box, as he has done all season. He was promoted from offensive coordinator three weeks ago when Matt Campbell took over at Iowa State.
"You couldn’t write a script like this," Candle said. "When people fall into positions like this, most of the time those programs aren’t in very good shape, but Matt Campbell left this place in great shape. Moving forward we’ve got to continue that."
The Rockets (10-2) positioned themselves to crack the final Top 25 for the first time since 2001, the last season they won 10 games.
"Our team deserves to be in that conversation," Candle said. "Tonight we put an exclamation point on a great season."
Temple (10-4) lost for the fourth time in seven games after starting 7-0.
"I’m never going to shake my head at winning 10 games," coach Matt Rhule said. "But we didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish."
Frequent driving rain hampered both offenses, but Ely went 20 for 28 with no turnovers.
"This was my last game," the senior said, "and I felt I played like it."
Linebacker Ja’Wuan Woodley’s jarring tackle sent the ball squirting backward 15 yards through the end zone for an early safety, and the hits kept coming from the Rockets, who blitzed on virtually every play. Temple came into the game averaging 31 points but didn’t reach the end zone until less than three minutes remained.
Jahad Thomas, who came into the game with 1,257 yards rushing for Temple, hurt his knee late in the first half and didn’t return.
"When you lose a guy like Jahad, you lose someone that can make a difference in the game," Temple quarterback P.J. Walker said.
Thomas was held to 5 yards on eight carries, and his fumble led to the safety.
Toledo entered the game ranked third in the nation in red-zone defense, and three times the Rockets held Temple to short field goals.
Ely and Woodley were chosen the game’s most valuable players.
The Rockets were nursing a 12-9 lead in the final period when they started at their 20 following a 71-yard punt. Thompson slipped behind the secondary, caught Ely’s pass in stride at his 40 and veered untouched to the end zone.
The play was a run-pass option.
"We take a chance here and there," Ely said. "Luckily it worked out for us."
The Rockets’ Thompson recovered an onside kick following Temple’s touchdown, a ruling the Owls disputed.
"I thought we had the onside kick," Rhule said. "I still think we had it."
"I had it the whole time," Thompson said with a straight face as his teammates laughed.
Following the recovery, Kareem Hunt scored on a 41-yard run to seal the victory.
Toledo’s Corey Jones broke five tackles to turn a short reception into a 26-yard score in the first half.
The Rockets totaled 435 yards. They moved 36 yards in the final 1:10 of the first half and kicked a 38-yard field goal on the last play for a 12-3 lead.