Detroit —There was a moment when it looked like Akron could give heavy-favorite Toledo a game in the Mid-American Conference Championship on Saturday before 16,225 spectators at Ford Field.
Trailing 7-0 early in the second quarter, the Zips benefitted from a bad snap, recovering a fumble that gave them the ball in Toledo territory.
But that’s where Akron’s luck ran out.
The Zips had a touchdown wiped off the board because of an illegal formation penalty, and when they attempted a 42-yard field goal, Toledo’s Nate Childress blocked the kick. After Josh Teachey returned the ball into Akron territory, the Rockets scored three plays later and took complete control.
Things never got back on track for the Zips, and Toledo cruised to a 45-28 victory to secure its first MAC title since 2004.
BOX SCORE: Toledo 45, Akron 28
The Rockets (11-2) outgained the Zips, 326-98, in the first half. The back-breaker came when MAC Offensive Player of the Year Logan Woodside led the Rockets on an eight-play, 97-yard touchdown drive in the final moments of the opening half. He finished with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jon’Vae Johnson with eight seconds remaining and sent Toledo into the break with a commanding 28-0 lead.
“I thought if we could take a couple of calculated risks and hit on them, we’d have a chance to go down and score,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said of the late first-half drive. “Certainly that and the blocked field goal were huge momentum swings.”
Woodside finished 23-for-37 for 307 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in garnering the game’s offensive MVP award.
“I told (Woodside) he’s the best quarterback I’ve played against since Peyton Manning,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “He’s a difference-maker and my hat goes off to him and the job he’s done.”
Despite the gaudy numbers, the offense was balanced. Toledo churned out 254 yards on the ground, led by Terry Swanson’s 180 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s a great feeling,” Swanson said. “Those guys up front opened up holes and I was able to hit them. (Woodside) puts the pressure on defenses and that opens up the run game.”
“That’s who we are,” Candle said. “We try to do that every day. To have that balance, that makes us really hard to defend.”
Akron (7-6) came in having started freshman quarterback Kato Nelson over its last three games. But when things started off rough for Nelson, Bowden switched to senior Thomas Woodson, who also struggled. Bowden went back to Nelson in the second half and had some success, but by then the game was too far gone.
“We were trying to see if we could get a spark going,” Bowden said of going to Woodson in the first half. “We weren’t doing a lot on offense and I said let’s try it now, not wait until the game’s out of hand.”
“That’s kind of where we thought we would be coming in. Let’s put both of them in the first half and go from there.”
At one point, the Zips had cut their deficit to 38-14 early in the fourth quarter, but a 54-yard touchdown run for Swanson put an end to any thoughts of a miracle comeback.
Nelson finished the game 8-for-18 for 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Zips defense had success in forcing five Toledo turnovers, but when it wasn’t taking the ball away, it was giving up big plays to a Rockets offense that piled up 561 yards.