BG Falcons regain I-75 Trophy after Ta’ron Keith’s TD catch with 9 seconds to go in 42-35 win at Toledo; game was a classic in a great rivalry

Interstate 75 Trophy (file photo)

Tue, Nov, 15

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Battle of I-75 Trophy is traveling back down I-75.

Matt McDonald’s 42-yard touchdown pass to Ta’ron Keith with just nine seconds left in the game lifted the Bowling Green State University football team to a 42-35 win over the University of Toledo on Tuesday night (Nov. 15), in a Mid-American Conference instant classic at the Glass Bowl.

With the win, the Falcons (6-5, 5-2 MAC)…

    • Stay alive in the race for the MAC’s East Division title;
    • Become bowl eligible; and
    • Win the Battle of I-75 in a game that had to be seen to be believed.

BGSU led for nearly the entire game, but the Rockets (7-4, 5-2 MAC) drove 85 yards for the go-ahead score with just 51 seconds left. But, McDonald completed a pair of passes on third-and-long plays on the ensuing drive. First, he hit Christian Sims to give the Falcons the ball at the UT 42.

Then, several plays later, McDonald – who threw for a career-high 395 yards –scrambled to his right and hit the streaking Keith on a short pass. Keith did the rest, breaking several tackles on his way to the end zone.

McDonald threw for four touchdowns, with Odieu Hiliare catching two of them. Hiliare had eight catches for no fewer than 246 yards and the two scores.

The BGSU defense had 14 tackles for loss in the win, with Karl Brooks recording 3.5 TFL’s on the night. Chris Bacon and DJ Taylor led the team with eight tackles apiece, but a total of 11 different Falcons had at least four tackles. 

Ta’ron Keith (courtesy Bowling Green Athletic Communications)

GAME STATISTICS

HOW IT HAPPENED
• BGSU held Toledo to a three-and-out on the first drive, with DJ Taylor making a pair of tackles. After a punt, the Falcons took over at their own 45-yard line.
• The Falcons picked up a first down, with quarterback Matt McDonald finding Harold Fannin Jr. for a third-down conversion. But, BG was forced to punt the ball back to the Rockets, with a fair catch giving UT the ball at the 14-yard line.
• BG again held UT to three plays and a punt. Karl Brooks nearly beat a UT running back to the handoff from Rocket QB Tucker Gleason, settling for a tackle for loss on second down. Then, a third-down sack by Jordan Anderson was followed by a short Rocket punt. The Falcons took over at the Toledo 38.
• The next drive saw Camden Orth rush 13 yards to pick up a first down. Then, two plays later, McDonald found Odieu Hiliare for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Mason Lawler’s PAT gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead with 7:51 left in the opening quarter.
• Another Taylor TFL, this time for six yards, set the tone for another three-and-out on the next drive, and UT punted the ball back to BG.
• The first play of the next drive also set the tone, as McDonald hooked up with Hiliare for an even 50 yards to the UT 18. Fannin blasted through a Rocket tackle attempt to pick up another first down, and McDonald found Andrew Bench for a touchdown with 2:50 left in the opening quarter.
• Toledo picked up a first down – the Rockets’ first of the game – on the opening play of the next drive. But, the next three plays gained a total of just five yards.
• Back-to-back completions gave the Falcons a first down, but the drive would stall. UT’s next drive, however, produced four positive plays for the BG defense (and special teams).
• Gleason was sacked by Brooks on first down before throwing an incompletion. On third down, Brooks and Walter Haire met at the QB, and on fourth down, PaSean Wimberly blocked a punt, and Patrick Day recovered the ball in the end zone. With exactly 12 minutes left in the half, the Falcons had a 21-0 lead.
• The Rockets’ next drive saw the home team put together three-straight positive plays to put the ball at the BG 20. But, Anthony Hawkins smothered a Rocket runner two plays later, helping to stop the home team’s forward progress. And, on fourth down, a 36-yard field-goal attempt by Thomas Cluckey was wide left.
• A Toledo interception, however, gave the Rockets the ball at the BG 15. And, it took the home team six plays to go those 15 yards, but UT reached the end zone to get on the scoreboard with 6:20 left before halftime.
• The next Rocket drive saw a pair of rushes by Gleason put the home team in business, and a pass put UT at the one-yard line. BGSU held for three plays, but the Rockets scored on a fourth-down pass, making it a 21-14 game with 1:26 left in the period.
• Jhaylin Embry returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the UT end zone, but a debatable penalty call nullified the score. A Trent Simms interception on the final play of the half saw the Falcons take that 21-14 lead into the intermission.
• McDonald hit Hilaire for a 54-yard completion on the opening drive of the second half. That drive culminated in a 39-yard field goal by Lawler, giving the Falcons a 24-14 lead.
• UT moved into BGSU territory, completing a pass inside the 5-yard line. But, Chris Bacon hit the Rocket receiver and forced a fumble, with Anderson recovering the ball at the two.
• The next Toledo drive also saw the Falcon defense take the ball away. Darren Anders hit Gleason as he threw, and Deshawn Jones Jr. came up with an interception. Two plays later, McDonald found a wide-open Hiliare for a 48-yard catch-and-run. McDonald spotted Ta’ron Keith for first-down yardage on a third-and-10 play, and the drive culminated with a 35-yard field goal by Lawler, putting the Falcons up, 27-14, with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
• The Rockets, however, scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the fourth period, on a 2-yard pass with 10:23 on the clock. The PAT made it a six-point game.
• Embry returned the ensuing kickoff to the BG 34-yard line. Two plays later, on third and 3, McDonald and Hiliare connected yet again. The pass was slightly behind Hilaire as he went left-to-right on a crossing route. but Hiliare reached back and made a one-handed catch, then broke a tackle as he turned upfield and proceeded to go 59 yards for a score. Lawler’s kick gave BG a 34-21 with 9:20 to go.
• The plucky Rockets, however, would not go away quietly. UT responded with a scoring drive, cutting the BG lead to six points once again with 5:09 remaining.
• McDonald found Fannin for first-down yardage on the opening play of the next drive, but the Orange and Brown could not pick up another first down, and BG punted the ball back to the Rockets with 2:36 on the clock.
• The Rockets took over on their own 15-yard line, and proceeded to go 85 yards for what appeared to be the game-winning drive. On a fourth-and-7 play, Gleason found Devin Maddox for what was initially ruled a touchdown with 53 seconds to go.
• After a review, it was ruled that Maddox stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Gleason went up the middle, as the Falcon defense let the UT QB score with 51 seconds to go. Cluckey’s kick gave the Rockets the lead for the first time all game, 35-34.
• Embry returned the kickoff to the BG 28, but McDonald was sacked on the first play, and BGSU used a timeout with 40 seconds left. After an incomplete pass brought up a third-and-15 play, McDonald hit Christian Sims for 35 yards down the left sideline, giving the Orange and Brown a first down at the Rocket 42 with just 28 seconds to go.
• A pair of incomplete passes made it third down once again. McDonald scrambled to his right and found Keith on a short pass. Keith did the rest, breaking several tackles and finding the end zone with just nine seconds remaining. McDonald hit Keith once again as BG picked up the two-point conversion for a 42-35 lead.
• The ensuing kickoff saw the ball go past the UT return man into the end zone, and he picked it up, but was tackled at the 1-yard line with five seconds to go. The Rockets completed a pass on first down, but the play ended at the UT 19-yard line as time ran out.

BOWL(ING GREEN IS BOWL) ELIGIBLE
With the win at Toledo, the Falcons are now bowl-eligible. Fans can purchase bowl tickets from the BGSU Athletics Ticket Office on Sunday, December 4, after the bowl selection show. Ticket pricing will be dictated by the bowl. For ticket questions, contact the BGSU Athletics Ticket Office at 419-372-0000 or tickets@bgsu.edu.

STATS LEADERS
• Matt McDonald, 20-of-36, 395 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT
• Odieu Hilaire: 8 catches, 246 yards, 96 YAC, 2 TD
• Ta’ron Keith: 5 catches, 64 yards, 63 YAC, 1 TD
• Chris Bacon: 8 tackles (7-1), 1 FF
• DJ Taylor: 8 tackles (4-4), 1.5 TFL
• Darren Anders: 7 tackles (4-3); 2 QBH
• Karl Brooks: 6 tackles (3-3); 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 2 QBH
• Mason Lawler: 2-2 FG; 4-4 PAT

FALCON NOTES
• Bowling Green is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2015.
• Ta’ron Keith’s 42-yard game-winning touchdown is his third game-winning score of the season when it was the last score of the game in the fourth quarter or overtime. He also scored the game-winner in OT vs. Marshall and in the fourth quarter against Miami (OH).
• QB Matt McDonald finished 20-of-36 for 395 yards and four touchdowns. With four passing touchdown McDonald now has 21 for the season which puts him in a tie at No. 11 on BGSU’s single-season list with Brian McClure (1984).
• The 395 passing yards for McDonald were a career high and the second time in his career he threw for 300+ yards.
• McDonald has thrown for 200+ yards in a game for the seventh time this season and the 16th time in his career.
• With the 395 passing yards, McDonald is now No. 10 in BGSU history with 5,689 career passing yards. He passed Ryan Henry (5,668) on the game-winning touchdown to Ta’ron Keith.
• WR Odieu Hiliare finished with a career-high 246 receiving yards. It is the second time this season and seventh time in his career he has recorded 100+ receiving yards in a game.
• Hiliare’s 246 receiving yards are No. 3 all-time at BGSU for a single game.

UP NEXT
• The Falcons return to the road for the final game of the regular season, heading to Athens to face Ohio University next Tuesday (Nov. 22). That contest is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

COURTESY BOWLING GREEN ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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