Before the focus could shift fully to the College Football Playoff and the matter of settling the national championship, the final matchup on the undercard of a raucous postseason delivered no shortage of fireworks in the GoDaddy Bowl.
Toledo started scoring early and never slowed down, riding a record-setting performance in the backfield and a defense that didn’t want to miss out on the party in the end zone to a 63-44 win over Arkansas State on Sunday night.
How the game was won: The Rockets were relatively efficient when they needed to pass, but it was a relentless rushing attack that kept the offense humming along. There was simply no stopping star sophomore Kareem Hunt, and while Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten put up some eye-popping numbers of his own with 403 yards and 5 touchdowns, keeping pace with the high-flying Rockets was too much to ask with Toledo chewing up yardage on the ground.
Gameball goes to: Hunt had previously dealt with an ankle injury this season that kept him off the field for three games, but clearly the rest before the bowl game served him well. Toledo fed the dynamic rusher carries as much as it possibly could, and while he looked a bit tired in the fourth quarter, that fatigue might have been expected after punching in his fifth touchdown to cap a busy shift that also included 32 rushes for 271 yards against the Red Wolves.
It was over when: There was still more than a half left to play, but Toledo’s second defensive touchdown of the game made it pretty clear it was in complete control. The Rockets had already directly capitalized on an Arkansas State turnover within the first 10 seconds of the game to open the scoring, and when big Allen Covington snatched a loose football out of the air and returned it 67 yards for a score, there wasn’t much doubt left about the outcome even while the scoreboard lights kept getting a work out.
What it means: Matt Campbell’s club gave him a second nine-win season to cap his third full year leading the program, and the Toledo coach could soon find himself in conversations for bigger jobs moving forward. The Rockets weren’t flawless on defense, but they were opportunistic, hard-nosed and did more than enough to complement such an explosive offensive attack under Campbell’s watch.
Best play: If he had to go much farther, maybe Covington wouldn’t have finished a sprint that was showing serious signs of slowing down in the end zone. But the junior defensive lineman had enough fuel in the tank to put more points on the board for the Rockets and stretch the lead before halftime.