It was Toledo’s heavy run game (229 team rushing yards), a quick paced offense and five sacks on SJS’ Chevan Cordeiro that led to a 21-17 Toledo win in front of 20,000 in the Glass Bowl.
“We started out fast, but the second half they made adjustments with more pressure, switching up coverages and playing us man-to-man,” said Cordeiro. “And we just couldn’t capitalize.”
“We kept driving and kept stopping ourselves,” added Cordeiro on the Spartans holding the ball 10 minutes longer than Toledo. “It’s a tough one because we knew we had it.”
On San Jose’s (1-3) first play on Toledo (2-1), Cordeiro came out firing. Hitting his favorite receiver Nick Nash on a 39-yard play-action go route, Cordeiro joined an exclusive club of 10,000 career-yard passers.
Quick to move on from the milestone, Cordeiro (228 yards passing, one TD, one INT) and the Spartans held the ball for 75% of the time in the first quarter, as Toledo barely made a blip. A 0-0 score was all to show for the first 15 minutes.
Obviously, the Spartans will take points over stats.
Halfway into the second quarter and with Nash (6 catches, 80 yards) stacking up catches and yardage, the Spartans finally broke through after another long drive with Kyle Halvorsen, one-of-two on first-half field goal attempts, hitting a 32-yarder for a 3-0 lead.
For the second week in a row, special teams play won the ball on a kickoff leading to a 20-yard touchdown catch by tight end Dominick Mazotti from Cordeiro and a 10-0 lead.
On cue to end the half, Toledo finally found their groove on a monstrous 18-play, 98-yard, 6:30 drive capped by 15-yard touchdown pass from DaQuan Finn to Jerquan Newton.
Despite controlling the ball for 70% of the half, the Spartans’ only held a 10-7 half-time lead.
After stalled drives by each team to start the second-half, Spartan safety Tre Jenkins pulled down his first interception of the year and the second of the year for the SJS defense.
With a short field, Spartan RB Kairee Robinson muscled into the end zone from 15-yards out. 17-7 Spartans.
“Their uptempo, fast-paced offense is pretty simple, but they get us tired and moving sideline-to-sideline,” said Jenkins. “And they have a great quarterback who uses his speed and vision. It’s a lot to guard, especially after they get a first down and they’re right on the ball again.”
“The discipline factor comes into play and we have to be more disciplined,” said Jenkins.
Head coach Brent Brennan added, “Finn is a really good player, player-of-the-year in their conference last year. He’s a hell-of-a-player and I tip my hat to those guys.”
Finn’s 18-yard fourth down run into SJS’ end zone finally made it a game. 17-14 Spartans.
Nursing a three-point lead, the Spartans stalled for the rest of the third quarter, until a horrible miscommunication between Nash and Cordeiro led to a pick six by the Rockets and a 21-17 lead that would finish the game, as SJS continued to stall in the fourth.
“We didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to get it done and it’s devastating,” said Brennan. “There were a lot of opportunities to finish the game.”
“It’s frustrating when we’re winning the game and the deciding touchdown is an interception,” said Brennan. “I really thought Nick got ‘hugged’ and thrown out of the way.”
“It’s just disappointing to have that as the difference in the game,” closed Brennan.
Headed home on a short week, the Spartans continue their gauntlet tour facing the indomitable Air Force run game Friday night in CEFCU Stadium.