BOISE, Idaho (AP) — For nearly 53 minutes Saturday night, Toledo was in position to rally and knock off Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Then Aggies running back Kerwynn Williams took over, scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 186 yards in the final 7 1/2 minutes to turn a tight game into a rout.
For Bernard Reedy, the fourth-quarter letdown that resulted in a 41-15 loss left a bitter taste. But he also considers it a valuable lesson he and his teammates should use to build on for next year.
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“We couldn’t get it going tonight,” said Reedy, the lone bright spot for a lackluster Toledo offense. “We just have to piggy-back off that next year and we have to get better. We’re really close to where we want to be. It was a great season and we did some really great things.”
They sure did.
The Rockets finished 9-4, at one point won eight straight games and Saturday played in their third consecutive bowl game. Toledo also knocked off then-No 18 Cincinnati and had nine players voted to all-Mid-American Conference teams.
Still, the Rockets couldn’t capitalize on some critical opportunities against an Aggies defense that ranks among the best in the nation. On the other side of the ball, the Toledo defense, playing without senior linebacker Dan Molls, the unit’s best tackler and emotional leader, collapsed late against Williams and a Utah State offense that scored 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Toledo was able to move the ball throughout the game and made five trips inside the red zone. But penalties and miscues forced the Rockets to settle for Jeremiah Detmer’s three field goals. Detmer hit two from 37 yards and another from 29, ending the season with a streak of 17 straight field goals
The Rockets’ only touchdown came when Reedy returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 87 yards. Reedy was the only big producer on a Toledo offense held to 315 total yards. He added 51 yards on the ground, taking the load of the carries after running back David Fluellen left with an ankle injury, and caught six passes for 62 yards.
Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin, who started in place of the injured Terrence Owens, was 12 of 21 passing for 132 yards. Dantin threw an interception in the third quarter to end a promising scoring drive and was replaced by Owens in the fourth quarter. Owens moved the Rockets on his first possession, but another red-zone opportunity was squelched when the Aggies snuffed Owens for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play from the 9.
Dantin returned later in the fourth quarter and threw a second pick to set up another touchdown run by Williams, who led the Aggies with 235 rushing yards and was voted MVP.
Molls, who led the nation with 166 tackles on the season, sustained a concussion on the opening kickoff and didn’t return. Fluellen, who rushed for 1,460 yards on the year, went down in the first quarter after re-injuring an ankle.
“Injuries happen … you have to have the ability to adapt and you have to have the ability to move on,” coach Matt Campbell said. “We were still in the game in the fourth quarter. I’m really proud of our football team from that standpoint.”
The Rockets finished with 315 total yards on offense and converted only 6 of 17 third down attempts.