WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 28: Bernard Reedy #11 of the Toledo Rockets rushes for a touchdown after catching a pass in front of Jamil Cooks #46 of the Air Force Falcons during the second half of the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium on December 28, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The stats that mattered from Toledo's 42-41 win over Air Force, from the Falcons' fourth-down conversions, to timely special teams, to a sudden defensive slugfest.
61: Rushing yards produced by Adonis Thomas' first three carries. The dynamic Toledo back looked incredible early on, but Air Force frustrated him for almost the entire game after his 41-yard touchdown run gave the Rockets a 14-0 lead. From that point forward, Thomas gained just 47 yards on 19 carries and caught two passes for 10 yards, and three different Toledo drives were mortally wounded by large first-down losses by Thomas.
This was the story for Toledo as a whole, actually. In their first five drives, they gained 206 yards in 27 plays (7.6 per play), scored three touchdowns and missed a field goal; they threw in an Eric Page kick return touchdown as well. They looked as explosive as I expected them to. In their next eight drives, however, they gained just 132 yards (4.0 per play), punted four times and turned the ball over twice. Their only offensive touchdown after the midway point of the second quarter came on a 39-yard drive set up by special teams. It is odd to say this, but in a 42-41 game, defense almost won the game for Air Force.
59: Receiving yards pulled in by Air Force's Zack Kauth on the Falcons' final drive. You know what also almost won the game for the Falcons? Some heroic late-game passing. Air Force's leading receiver, Kauth had been targeted by quarterback Tim Jefferson just twice all game, but when the Falcons fell behind by a touchdown with five minutes left, Jefferson leaned on him. Kauth caught three of six passes thrown his way, including a 13-yarder on third-and-11 and a 33-yard touchdown on fourth-and-3. His stat line says "four catches for 77 yards," but that ignores the timeliness factor.
13: Air Force's scoring margin after I tweeted this (with Toledo having just gone up 14-0):
5: Successful fourth-down conversions from Air Force. The Falcons were not averse to going for it all season -- their 26 fourth-down attempts were the 12th-highest in the country -- but knowing they needed some serious ball control against the explosive Rockets (ha, "explosive Rockets"), they upped the ante a bit. And for the most part, it worked out. Of course, the Eff It Factor that served them well, also cost them with a minute left...
2: Toledo punts downed inside the Air Force five-yard line in the fourth quarter. Unable to locate their reservoir of big plays, Toledo leaned on field position to decide the game. Punter Vince Penza knocked a punt out of bounds at the Air Force 3 early in the final period, and after the teams traded three-and-outs, he had one downed at the 3. Air Force went three-and-out again, and following a poor Falcon punt, the Rockets were able to drive just 37 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. (They were still unable to grind out a scoring drive, however -- instead, Terrance Owens found Bernard Reedy for a 33-yard score on third-and-6. Reedy bailed out the Rockets all game, catching all four passes thrown at him for 126 yards and three touchdowns. This was good, as Air Force shut down star receiver Eric Page.) Field position and special teams aren't exactly "MACtion" worthy, but they won the game for Toledo yesterday.