Blast off: Eric Page leads Toledo past CMU in final game of season
TOLEDO, Ohio – After this performance, Eric Page should have the field named after him.
The sophomore wide receiver had an impressive day Friday, accounting for five touchdowns and 370 all-purpose yards as Toledo beat the Central Michigan football team 42-31 before 12,121 at the Glass Bowl.
Page returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and had 127 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. He also threw for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“You can’t let a guy score two kickoff returns on you,” said senior linebacker Nick Bellore. “It hurt us.”
Bellore, who finished the game with 10 tackles, was one of 13 seniors to play in their final game in the CMU uniform. Before Friday, the class was a perfect 3-0 against the Rockets.
But like so many games this season, the Chippewas squandered their share of opportunities late. Trailing 35-24 early in the fourth quarter, Toledo marched down the field and quarterback Terrance Owens found Page on a 28-yard touchdown pass to push lead back to three scores.
CMU would respond with a touchdown and force a blocked punt on Toledo’s ensuing possession. But instead of picking up the ball and running with it, sophomore Lorenzo White made the mistake of falling on it instead of picking it up and running into the end zone.
White had recovered a blocked punt – the Chippewas first of two – early in the fourth quarter for a touchdown.
Momentum would quickly evaporate as sophomore quarterback Ryan Radcliff was sacked on the next play, fumbling the football and ending any chance for a comeback bid.
“We scoop and score that – we do it every day in practice,” Enos said. “It was very disappointing because we work on it all the time. We shouldn’t have to run a play after that.”
UT opened the scoring three plays into the game with a 75-yard pass from quarterback Terrance Owens to wide receiver Kenny Stafford Jr. Owens had a record day, going 24-for-32 for 304 touchdowns and three touchdowns.
After the Chippewas responded with an 11-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to tie the game, Page returned the kickoff 99 yards to put the Rockets up 14-7.
He would tack on two more touchdowns, a 9-yard and 25-yard reception from Owens, before CMU would get itself back on the scoreboard with a 1-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman Zurlon Tipton.
“Eric Page is a phenomenal performer,” said UT head coach Tim Beckman. “When we need to make a play he seems to make them both offensively and on special teams.”
After UT failed to convert on fourth down, momentum appeared to sway in the Chippewas favor. But with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter and all three timeouts at his disposal, Enos opted not to attempt a drive and 28-14 deficit into halftime.
They would come out in the third quarter, drive down the field and get a 33-yard field goal from freshman kicker David Harman, but that was as close they get. Page would burn CMU again, returning the kickoff 95 yards.
“Eric Page is good and their quarterback threw the ball better than I thought,” Enos said. “Those big plays had an effect, but those kickoff returns are huge. When we score and they return a kickoff for a touchdown, that deflates the whole team.”
Radcliff finished the game 28-for-39 for 322 yards an interception. Sophomore Cody Wilson had 10 catches for 109 yards, his sixth game of the season with more than 100 yards receiving.
In his last game, senior running back Carl Volny led the team with 41 yards rushing and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Zurlon Tipton carried for two touchdowns and 29 yards on six carries.
CMU ends the season 3-9, its worst record since 2003. UT improves to 8-4 and 7-1 in the Mid-American Conference, the program’s first winning season since 2005, and will likely play in a bowl game.
“I learned more about myself this year than any other year because things weren’t handed to us and we struggled,” Bellore said. “Things that went our way in the past didn’t. It’s terrible not going to a bowl game and MAC championship, but at the end of the day it teaches you a lot of lessons about life and what’s ahead of us in the future.”
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