In a game that featured enough offense to wear out the grass field at RFK Stadium, the Toledo football team escaped with a 42-41 victory over Air Force in the Military Bowl when the Falcons bungled a special teams gamble before 25,042 on Wednesday night.
With 52 seconds remaining, Air Force had cut the Rockets’ lead to a point on a 33-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Tim Jefferson to senior wide receiver Zack Kauth on fourth and three. The Falcons lined up to kick the extra point, but holder David Baska rose upon receiving the snap and ran left. As he was approaching the goal line, the junior fumbled into the end zone on what initially appeared to be a pitch, and the ball rolled out of bounds.
Toledo then recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock on the highest scoring of the four Military Bowls, giving Coach Matt Campbell — at 32 the youngest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision — his first win as a head coach. The Rockets’ offensive coordinator the past three seasons was named to the position on Dec. 12 following Tim Beckman’s departure for Illinois.
“This means everything for me for Coach Campbell,” wide receiver Bernard Reedy said, “because our previous coach leaving us, it was a big momentum drop, and for us to go out and win for Coach Campbell, that brought the praise back up.”
The Rockets (9-4) had taken a 42-35 lead with 5 minutes 1 second left on Reedy’s 33-yard touchdown reception. The sophomore finished with 126 yards receiving on four catches, three of which went for scores, and was named MVP.
Rockets sophomore quarterback Terrance Owens completed 19 of 24 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, and senior tailback Adonis Thomas added 128 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
The second college football game of the year at the former home field of the Washington Redskins was essentially a home game for Air Force, which sold nearly 10,000 tickets and had 5,000 more distributed to military personnel. Most of the upper bowl was vacant as Falcons fans occupied several sections behind their team, which last was in the area for a 35-34 overtime win against Navy on Oct. 1.
Air Force (7-6) had tied the game at 35 with 5:59 left in the third quarter on Mike DeWitt’s two-yard scoring run. The junior fullback’s second touchdown capped a seven-play drive that began at midfield and included a 20-yard run by Jefferson and an 11-yard run from sophomore wide receiver Ty MacArthur to set up first and goal from the 2.
Several minutes earlier, Toledo struck first in the second half when safety Jermaine Robinson intercepted Jefferson’s pass that went off wide receiver Mikel Hunter’s hands. The throw was a bit behind Hunter, who tried to make the catch while twisting his body in mid-air. Robinson collected the carom before going 37 yards into the end zone with 8:56 to play.
It didn’t take long for the offensive fireworks to commence when in the first quarter, the teams combined for 35 points and scored on five of six possessions during one stretch. Toledo got the defensively challenged affair started with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Owens to Reedy.
Air Force’s Cody Getz muffed the ensuing kickoff, and the Rockets were in business again when Junior Sylvestre recovered at the Falcons 41. On the next play, Thomas dashed around the left side and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown.
Air Force responded by going 76 yards in eight plays on a drive that included a pass interference penalty against Toledo. That violation, following an 18-yard completion from Jefferson to Hunter, placed the ball at the Rockets 19. Three plays later on third and 12, Jefferson ran for a 22-yard touchdown with 2:29 remaining.