Whether you love or hate the bowl season, the GoDaddy Bowl is everything you need to justify your position. As Sunday night bled into Monday morning, an 8-4 MAC team from northeast Ohio played a 7-5 Sun Belt team from Arkansas before a crowd of hundreds in Mobile, Ala., in a game that exists for no other reason than to fill ESPN air time and sell domain names.
The more off-brand the bowl game, the more the football gods tend to look the other way, and Sunday night’s barnburner had plenty of that in a 63-44 Toledo win.
First, Toledo opened up a 35-17 halftime lead thanks to two defensive touchdowns – both fumbles by Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten that happened to be returned for touchdowns. The first came on the very first snap from scrimmage, as a three-yard run turned into a fumble and an all-out scramble with Rocket defender Trent Voss eventually falling on the ball in the end zone (and, remember, the play started at the 25).
Then, with Arkansas State hoping to pull within 28-24 before the break, this happened.
Allen Covington‘s 67-yard snag-and-score gave Toledo a 35-17 halftime lead, and the Red Wolves never climbed within single digits after that. Kareem Hunt‘s fourth touchdown with 8:15 to go in the third quarter put Toledo up 42-17, but Arkansas State clawed back to 42-31 after Knighten fired a 55-yard touchdown pass to Booker Mays (after throwing scoring strikes of 66 and 44 yards in the first half), and Money Hunter‘s 94-yard interception return with 2:06 remaining in the frame.
The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with Toledo’s Damion Jones-Moore adding the capper on a 29-yard run with 1:02 to go.
Every bonkers bowl game has to include an outstanding individual performance, and Toledo running back Hunt’s night checked that box. He set GoDaddy Bowl records with 32 carries for 271 yards and five touchdowns, including scoring dashes of 44 and 29 yards. Hunt would’ve had another if not for cramps allowing backup Jones-Moore vulture a 10-yard touchdown, which pushed the lead to 56-38 with 6:33 to play.
Outside of his two catastrophic fumbles, Knighten was pretty darn good for the Red Wolves. He completed 23-of-31 passes for 403 yards with five touchdowns (only one shorter than 27 yards) and no interceptions, good for a quarterback rating of 236.6.
There was also the requisite element of knucklehead-edness.
Arkansas State’s Xavier Woodson just got kicked out of the game for threatening an official. So there’s that. — David Brandt (@davidbrandtAP) January 5, 2015
And, of course, an empty stadium pic.
Not a lot of Toledo fans here to see this one, but the ones who made the trek have to be happy. pic.twitter.com/TXKwK0IcVm
— David Brandt (@davidbrandtAP) January 5, 2015
In the end, the final non-championship bowl game of the 2014-15 season was a fitting tribute to the 37 that came before it.
Toledo finished the year at 9-4, tying the high-water mark under fourth-year head coach Matt Campbell, while Arkansas State dropped to 7-6 in head coach Blake Anderson‘s debut campaign. The best news for Arkansas State, however, is that for the first time since 2010, the Red Wolves will have a head coach return for a second season after Steve Roberts‘ firing to conclude the ’10 season, and then one-year stays by Hugh Freeze (2011), Gus Malzahn (2012) and Bryan Harsin (2013).