TOLEDO - Like a Senior Night script from "Friday Night Lights," seniors Austin Dantin and David Pasquale came off the bench and led the Rockets to a 35-23 victory over Akron in their final game at the Glass Bowl on Tuesday.
Dantin, a starter for much of his career who has played sparingly this season, started at quarterback for injured junior Terrance Owens, completing 29-of-35 passes for a career-high 327 yards and five touchdowns. Pasquale, a reserve for his entire career at quarterback and running back, came off the bench to rush for 93 yards on 15 carries. He also caught seven passes for 110 yards and scored on a 55-yard Dantin pass in the second quarter.
Freshman Alonzo Russell led all receivers with nine receptions for 139 yards and two TDs. On the defensive side, senior linebacker Dan Molls added to his nation-leading tackler total by tying his season best with 18 stops.
Toledo, which also played without leading rusher David Fluellen (ankle), ends its regular season with a 9-3 record, 6-2 in Mid-American Conference play. Akron finishes 1-11, 0-8 in MAC play.
Like most good Hollywood scripts, the victory did not come easy. The Rockets trailed 10-0 in the first quarter and needed to rally to win the game. Akron jumped out to the lead on a Robert Stein 31-yard field goal and a four-yard TD rush by Jawon Chisholm that capped a 14-play, 81-yard drive with 50 seconds left in the period.
The Rockets cut the lead to 10-7 with a 23-yard TD pass from Dantin to Russell in the first minute of the second quarter. Dantin struck again a few minutes later with a 55-yard catch-and-run over the middle to Pasquale to give Toledo a 14-10 lead.
Akron regained the lead moments later on a 30-yard heave from Kyle Pohl to Keith Sconiers. But Toledo took a 21-17 into the locker room on Russell's second TD reception of the half, a 39-yarder with 1:37 left.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Rockets extended their lead to 28-17 on a two-yard toss from Dantin to freshman tight end Alex Zmolik with 9:56 to play, finishing off a 12-play, 62-yard drive. Dantin threw his fifth TD of the game, tying his career mark, on a three-yard pass to Justin Olack with 8:19 left.
Akron scored its final touchdown of the game with 3:30 to play, but Toledo clinched the win by recovering the ensuing onside kick.
Toledo, which ends its regular season with its most regular-season wins since a 9-5 season in 2002, will have to wait to find out which bowl it will play in. All bowl invitations must be extended by Sunday, Dec. 2.