CFN Bowl Analysis ... Little
FIU 34 ... Toledo 32
Toledo head coach Tim Beckman makes a statement by going for two in the final moments instead of taking a shot with his shaky kicking game to send it into overtime, and then he goes ultra-conservative when his team needed to make a play.
The FIU hook-and-lateral on 4th and 17 will be the talk of the game, but that was just a near-perfect play that Toledo couldn't quite stop with T.Y. Hilton barely staying in bounds … at least that was what was ruled after there wasn't a definitive angle on any replay. The problem was the kickoff that gave FIU life, squibbing it up the middle with Greg Ellingson taking the ball to midfield. Hilton returned a kick for a score in the second half, and obviously Beckman didn't want to see lightning strike twice, but instead of kicking it deep and designing the play so the coverage team could bottle up the Golden Panther star, the Rockets didn't rely on its struggling coverage team to come up with one deep tackle that would've all but ended it.
The other problem was getting away from the running game. Terrance Owns showed off his arm and his mobility to make him a dangerous prospect for the next few years, but he also threw three picks. Up 24-7, all Toledo had to do was keep the ground game in a lather, and it should've cruised. Instead, the Rockets went to the air a bit too much, didn't keep feeding Adonis Thomas, who ran 24 times but should've handled it even more, and FIU managed to get into the game when the turnovers started to come.
While the Toledo coaching staff will probable stew over this for a while, this game meant everything to FIU and head coach Mario Cristobal. This was the first ever bowl win in the program's first ever bowl appearance, and to do it in such dramatic fashion will make it all the sweeter.
Hilton got the team in the game, and kept it alive late, but the defense stiffened in the second half, the offense perked up, and now there's a huge win to build on for the still-emerging program.
- Terrance Owens has a gun. The lefty might have thrown too many picks, but he's mobile, moved the offense well at times, and showed off the potential to make him the franchise for the Toledo offense over the next few years.
- It's not like the coaching staff didn't try force-feeding Eric Page the ball. The Toledo do-it-all-playmaker led the team with five catches for 24 yards, and he caught the big two-point conversion, but he didn't make enough of an impact.
- Hilton might have been the star, but FIU's Greg Elingson had the better receiving day with a team-leading seven catches for 66 yards to go along with a very, very big kickoff return.
- FIU punter Josh Brisk averaged a solid 40.5 yards per kick and helped turn the tide putting three in the 20.
- The two defenses were better than the final score might indicate.
When you allow a fourth-and-17 to be converted when the game hangs in the balance, you don't deserve to win.
Toledo had its moments and head coach Tim Beckman earned a better fate for his gutsy calls, but the Rocket defense and special teams had a few too many lapses to get out of Detroit with a victory. Obviously, it was a historic and feel-good evening for the Golden Panthers, though it could be weeks before the smile fades from the face of assistant Apollo Wright, in particular, the school's special teams coordinator. His unit had three of the game's pivotal plays, a kickoff return for a touchdown from T.Y. Hilton, a blocked punt in the fourth quarter, and the game-winning field goal from Jack Griffin. Hardly a perfect game for FIU, but when you're still in your infancy, don't expect anyone on campus to be splitting hairs in this one.
- Regardless of the outcome in this one, Florida International has written the blueprint for how to start a small program from scratch. The football team was non-existent a decade ago, making tonight a victory even before the opening kickoff.
- At some point, don't you just completely take the ball out of Toledo QB Terrance Owens' hands and give it to RB Adonis Thomas? The lefty telegraphs far too many passes and offers little as a consistent passer.
- The receivers, Toledo's Eric Page and Florida International's Hilton, deserved far better treatment from their quarterbacks. Don't be fooled by the pedestrian numbers tonight through the air. It had more to do with their battery mates than a lack of playmaking ability.
FIU vs. Toledo in front of tens of people in Detroit – what's your initial reaction? WAKE UP, I asked you a question.
This was supposed to be one of those bowl games that was "for gamblers only." You know, one of those games in which even the most adamant college football fan would choose to ignore unless there was something more on the line. Well, as it turned out, it was one of the most interesting games of this young bowl season.
"It's the last game of the year, Brent, you can't hold anything back." Dan Fouts used that quote several times in The Waterboy, and these two teams lived and died by that mantra Sunday night.
FIU, playing its first bowl game in its young history, came to play, ripping off 24 straight points to take a 31-24 lead with just over 2:00 to play. Not to be outdone, Toledo head coach Tim Beckman answered back, going for two and the win after scoring the potential game-tying touchdown with 1:14 to go. But in the end, FIU went all Boise State on us, converting a 4th and 17 with under 1:00 to go to get in field goal range for Jack Griffin, who booted a 34-yarder as time expired to notch the first bowl win in Golden Panther history.
The excessive number of bowls out there today is ridiculous. But sometimes, the bowl setup lends itself to out-of-the-box and exciting play calls and games, and that's exactly what happened at Ford Field. This game would not have played out this way had it been a regular season game. Yeah, it was MAC vs. Sun Belt and yeah, it was one of those bowl games that the rest of the college football world would like to see on the chopping block. But for one night, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl gave us an exciting game to watch. The same can't be said about a lot of the other bowl games so far this year.
Luckily for the football-craved glutton out there, this game delivered on a night in which the NFL postponed its Sunday night game. Little Caesars couldn't have drawn it up any better.