College Football

NCAA Football Boca Raton Bowl: Toledo holds off Liberty 21-19


The difference in the 2022 Boca Raton Bowl came down to a two-point conversion on Tuesday night at Florida Atlantic University. Mid-American Conference champions Toledo (9-5) connected on its conversion pass midway through the fourth quarter, while Liberty (8-5) failed on its attempt late in the final period, missing a chance to tie the game and potentially send it to overtime.

The result was a 21-19 victory for the Rockets, who spotted the Flames a 7-0 lead before scoring the next 21 points. A furious late fourth-quarter rally fell just short for Liberty, which ended the season on a four-game losing streak.

“I thought the game tonight kind of mimicked our season in the sense that some ups, some downs, but at the end of the day finding a way,” said Toledo head coach Jason Candle.

Shedro Louis got Liberty on the board first with a 9-yard touchdown run. Toledo countered with the first of two field goals by Thomas Cluckey, a 41-yarder, and Liberty led the defensive struggle 7-3 at halftime.

But the second half belonged to the Rockets, who scored on the opening drive to take a 10-7 lead. Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Lenny Kuhl to put the Rockets on top for good.

Finn completed 16 of 24 passes in the game for 133 yards.

“This group I think is the first group since 2001 that’s won a Bowl game and a MAC championship in the same season and I’m proud of that,” Candle said.

Cluckey added a 29-yard field goal and the Rockets led 13-7 through three quarters.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Finn scored on a 1-yard run, and then threw to Jaquez Stewart for the pivotal two-point conversion to make it 21-7. Stewart was the workhorse for Toledo, rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries, both game-highs. It was a triumphant return to Florida for Stewart, who played high school football just down the road in Miami.

But Liberty fought back, scoring touchdowns on its final two possessions of the game. However, the Flames missed on both PAT attempts, and it proved to be the difference in the game. Flames quarterback Kaidon Salter threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Treon Sibley. But on the extra point attempt, the snap was dropped and a belated kick attempt sailed wide.

The Flames scored again on a trick play with wide receiver CJ Daniels taking a pass behind the line of scrimmage from Salter and then throwing to a wide-open Bentley Hanshaw, who completed the 67-yard touchdown play. However, the potential game-tying two-point conversion pass play failed.

Toledo was able to pick up a couple of first downs on its ensuing possession and run out the final 3-plus minutes of the clock.

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