Toledo nearly came back from a 25-point deficit at Eastern Michigan, but the Rockets' furious rally came up just short in a 28-26 loss to the Eagles at Rynearson Stadium on Saturday.
Toledo (3-3, 1-1 MAC) trailed 28-3 going into the fourth quarter when junior Mitchell Guadagni engineered three scoring drives, the final touchdown coming with 20 second left when Guadagni scrambled 10 yards to cut the lead to 28-26. Toledo went for the two-point conversion to tie the game but Guadagni's pass to sophomore Bryce Mitchell was broken up. Toledo's attempt at an on-side kick went out of bound, giving EMU its first win over the Rockets in the past 12 meetings.
Guadagni completed 12-of-27 passes for 147 yards and one TD. He led the Rockets in rushing with 137 yards and one score on 27 carries. Sophomore Shakif Seymour added 61 yards and one TD. Senior linebacker Richard Olekanma led the defense with a career-high 15 tackles. Toledo's efforts were hampered by 16 penalties for 130 yards.
EMU dominated the opening quarter, outscoring the Rockets, 21-3. On their opening drive, the Eagles went 75 yards in just four plays to take a 7-0 lead. The big play of the drive was a 48-yard gain by QB Mike Glass on a read-option to the UT six-yard line. Moments later, Glass struck again on a 22-yard score to put the Eagles up, 14-0. Immediately following a Toledo punt to midfield, Willie Parker ran straight up the middle for a 50-yard score to give EMU a 21-0 lead. The Rockets got on the board on their third possession of the quarter, a 35-yard field goal by Jameson Vest.
Toledo missed a chance to put points on the board when its drive was halted on the EMU 16-yard line. Bryant Koback was stopped for no gain, turning the ball over to the Eagles. EMU took advantage of the stop, driving 84 yards in the other direction in 10 plays to increase its lead to 28-3. Shaq Vann scored from one yard out on fourth down to finish the drive.
Toledo tacked on three more points on a 32-yard field goal by Vest to trim the lead to 28-6. The Eagles then missed a chance to add to their lead when a 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
The Rockets cut the lead to 28-13 on an 18-yard TD pass from Guadagni to Thompson with 11:18 to play. After forcing the Eagles to punt, UT marched 80 yards to pull to within eight points, 28-20, with 5:59 to play. Shakif Seymour capped the drive with a one-yard run. After the Rockets forced EMU to punt, Toledo took over at the EMU 47-yard line with 4:28 left. On third-and-10, Guadagni scrambled out of the pocket and threw an interception downfield, seemingly ending UT's chances for a comeback. However, UT forced the Eagles into a fourth-and-one on the EMU 42, and the Eagles chose to go for it. Jarirus Grissom was stopped for no gain by seniors Tyler Taafe and Richard Olekanma, giving UT one last chance. Guadagni scrambled for a 10-yard TD on fourth down to cut the lead to 28-26 but the failed two-point conversion essentially ended the comeback.
The Rockets return home to face MAC East Division leader Buffalo at the Glass Bowl in a noon kickoff.